Michael Deibert (pictured) is currently based in Miami. But for much of the time in recent years, he has covered conflict in Congo and the troubles in Haiti.
In response to the New York Times‘ publication over the weekend of a series of photos taken of the Nairobi, Kenya shopping mall massacre by Pulitzer Prize winning photographer Tyler Hicks and Hicks’ wife, who found themselves by chance in the vicinity when the violence erupted, Deibert took to his personal blog. In an open letter to the paper’s public editor Margaret Sullivan, Deibert objects to the fact that the paper displayed in several of the pictures the faces of victims:
Quite honestly, as a journalist who has reported on conflict for going on quite a number of years, I was shocked and dismayed by this. Would the New York Times run photos of blood-soaked dead white Americans after one of the many mass shootings that occur in the United States? I doubt it. That they did so after the mass killings in Nairobi yesterday is very troubling, not just to me, but also to many other journalists, academics and analysts who focus on Africa.
There are ways to depict violence so that people are not immediately recognizable to their loved ones, friends, and so on, and everyone, American, African, or whatever their nationality, deserves some dignity in death. One can show dead bodies without showing their faces, leaving people confronted for the rest of their lives with images of their family members and other loved ones soaked in blood and torn asunder.
Deibert does not blame Hicks and the photographer’s wife for shooting the pictures that they did. Rather, he wonders why the NYT editors failed to show the proper restraint. The answer may have something to do with that new metric of breaking news journalism: Internet page views.
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