Every day, journalists are forced to face ethical questions. That's the nature of the practice. Creating something that will be spread across all different types of mediums is bound to spark public controversy. It can be argued that if a story doesn't create a pressing conversation, the journalist didn't do his or her job correctly. When I'm reading an article or watching a video, I'm looking for answers to the questions that most people are afraid to ask. If a journalist goes to their managing editor and asks, "is this suitable to post," then they're doing their job the way it was intended to be done. Every story is different. That's why there is no magic line that can't be crossed (and if there is one, it's blurry and wobbly at best).
There have been events in the passed that drastically changed how people perceive the media and what is acceptable to show to the public. Elvis is famous for doing this with his appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show in 1956. How could someone go on TV and shake their hips the way he did. He was obviously attempting to seduce women. People were outraged. I wonder what those same people would think if they saw the VMAs this past Sunday. Now that was racy.
Today, pictures and videos can spread like wildfire. News outlets can't control this rapid spread, but what they can control is how the public will perceive events after the fact. We saw this with the murders of the two journalists on live TV. The day after the shooting, The New York Post and The Daily News used controversial pictures at the foreground of their publication. By that time, most people have seen both the videos of the shootings so why shouldn't they be able to use those pictures?
The main argument stated against using graphic pictures is that the publication is hurting the feelings of people who don't want to see the pictures. The Daily News justified their decision by saying we are at a time "when it is so easy for the public to become inured to such senseless violence." But is their public statement really transparent to why they had such a controversial cover?
Earlier I said that journalists should use their position to raise questions that other people will not. However, this is not what The Daily News and The New York Post did. They merely used their platform for their own business sake. They did not place the public's interest ahead of commercial interests. They know full well that having a controversial cover will equal to more viewership and more viewership equals more advertisement. And they did so with complete disregard of the victims family. The controversy alone is enough for some people to go out of their way to buy an issue of The Daily News. Imagine seeing your fiancé plastered on the front pages of tabloids with complete fear in her eyes. Now imagine that a few news corporations used that look of fear and turned it into a profit.