On Disturbing Video and Difficult Content

POTENTIALLY DISTURBING VIDEO AFTER THE JUMP. Three days ago the Tampa Bay Times posted raw cell phone video of a fiery crash that took place on I-275 outside of Tampa, Florida. According to the Florida Highway Patrol Daniel Lee Morris, 28, was driving a friend’s SUV the wrong way down the interstate when he crashed into a car carrying four University of South Florida fraternity brothers. All died in the crash.

As of today, the Times still carries the video on its website. Local media handled use of the footage differently: Some used the whole clip, sound included; some used the video without sound; and some chose not to use it at all. Poynter.org, which owns the Tampa Bay Times, reported that “As of Wednesday afternoon [the day after posting it], the car crash video had 66,000 views on the Times’ site and another 154,000 views through a news network, said Anne Glover, digital content editor. That’s well over the average video on the site, Glover said. ‘For us, 4,000 views is good.’”

The video was recorded by 19-year-old Jada Wright, who posted it to her Facebook page. After being made aware of it, the Times—like other central Florida media outlets—downloaded the video and debated how it should be used. “I told them to post it,” Glover said. “I felt really confident that this was fair use, that it was posted on a public page, and that it was important to the story. I told [others at my paper] to keep trying to reach [Wright].”

This case brings us back to discussing how to treat difficult content, much like the case involving former Pennsylvania State Treasurer R. Budd Dwyer, and convicted killer Richard Allen Davis (see “Does it Shock or Inform?”). Much like the Dwyer and Davis examples, this video does help tell a tragic story. But what about how it was obtained? It might satisfy the legal definition of fair use, but what about the ethics of obtaining the video? And what about showing the video itself? What do you think?

Sources: Poynter.org, Tampa Bay Times, LiveLeak.com

Did a “Black Woman Chair” Disrespect MLK Day?


Buro 24/7, a Russian online magazine, published an interview with a Russian magazine editor on Martin Luther King Day that featured photographs of the editor sitting on what appears to be a half-naked African American woman (see above). The “chair” was reportedly an attempt to recreate similar work done by British pop artist Allen Jones in 1969. That this photograph—published on MLK Day—was of a white woman sitting on a black woman, was not lost among a number of readers. According to the Huffington Post, one reader commented on Twitter, “extremely disappointed in Miroslava Duma [the blog’s editor] and Buro247 for posting this nonsense, especially on a day like today.” Aside from bad timing the other problem, some think, is that the fashion industry is given a pass when it comes to racism, all in the name of art. As one reader tweeted, “Even in the grim, tasteless world of fashion photography, this revolting racist image—pub’d on MLK Day!—stands out.”

While these criticisms seem to be right on target, it’s important to remember that MLK Day is an American holiday, and that our interest in racial equality may not be shared with other countries and other cultures. Was it wrong for a Russian blog to run this photograph on an American holiday? Or was it just wrong to run the picture at all?

Thanks to our friend and department alum Heidi Woodard for the tip!

Sources: Buro 24/7, HuffingtonPost.com