NYT Powerful Front Page: Was it Necessary?

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Today’s front page of The New York Times (above) featured a photograph of a young woman showing a scar on her breast bearing a Star of David tattoo. The story reported on an apparent genetic mutation among Israeli women that may increase their risk of breast cancer (see the graph below). The photograph is of an unidentified 28-year-old woman who recently had a lump removed from her breast. As striking and compelling as the photograph is, one wonders if it was necessary for it to be so revealing. We can only speculate, but the rationale for running the photograph might have been this: We (The NYT), have a woman who is willing to be photographed and just so happens to have a Star of David tattoo in close proximity to the site of recent breast-related surgery. We can photograph her bearing her breast. It would make for a compelling shot. And although the shot reveals a portion of her nipple, we believe it to be shocking enough to get the attention of readers who might not ordinarily read such important public health reporting.

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The story makes a solid case for how important is for women of Israeli descent to undertake screenings and other preventative measures; but was it necessary for the photograph to be that revealing? Like previous cases that used shocking photographs (see “Does it Shock or Inform?”), does the photograph in this case shock or inform? Or does it do both? Was it necessary to use the photograph? What are the ethics here?

Sources: The New York Times, NYTimes.com, Huffingtonpost.com

The Governor and “The Elephant in the Room”

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Newly re-elected NJ governor Chris Christie found himself the subject of a TIME Magazine cover last week that generated some controversy. The cover, shown above, features a photograph of Christie with the headline “The Elephant in the Room.” TIME Magazine has claimed that the photo and the headline were a double entendre meant to draw attention to Christie (who is Republican) who many feel could be a presidential contender in 2016 and the elephant as the symbol of the Republican party. The story investigated the reported instability of the GOP and Christie’s ability to help stabilize it.

Critics instantly seized on the cover as making fun of Christie’s weight (some think he’s obese). Conservative talk show host David Webb said the cover “mocked” Christie’s weight. Even Jon Stewart of “The Daily Show With Jon Stewart” got in on criticizing the magazine, as shown in the clip below.

"The Daily Show With Jon Stewart"

This isn’t the first time we have discussed TIME Magazine on Information Ethics Report; the magazine is known for its provocative covers as we pointed out in this post. But here’s what we need to ask: How do we know if this was intentionally provocative, or merely a clever play on words? If it was intentionally provocative, what about it is unethical?

Sources: USAToday.com, “The Daily Show With Jon Stewart,” Huffpost.com