Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Write Your Own Ending: Part 2



This is part two in our "Write Your Own Ending" series. To get the full background and see the first story, check out "Write Your Own Ending: Part 1."

The Reporter's Dilemma

There you are, minding your own business at your desk, when the phones start ringing wildly, screaming their jingles across the newsroom. Cellphones go off as well, and you hear everything from hip-hop to the fight song of the local sports team. You are a reporter at The Middlestate Herald, and breaking news is happening right now.

Your editor puts down the phone in a hurry and motions for you to come over to her desk. A bomb just went off at a local office building, and an estimated 500 people were inside at the time. You and some of your colleagues rush to the scene, ready to do what it takes to get the story.

While at the scene, you get some vivid photographs. There are bodies everywhere, and the destruction is indescribable. Authorities have the death toll estimated at 357, and injuries are at more than 100 people. You get the story — police think a disgruntled employee blew up the building after going on a shooting rampage, according to witnesses who miraculously survived the blast.

You return to the newsroom, and you sit down with your editors to make the call on what photos to run. While you were out, the newspaper received a video in the mail, sent the day before by the killer. The videos are chilling, and the killer reasons with the camera as to why he felt the act of terrorism was justified. Already, national media are beginning to descend on your town, and you've been assigned to head back to the scene and to interview victims' families tomorrow.

What do you do? Where do you draw the line on running certain photos? Do you write about the killer's manifesto and post the videos on your Web site? Do you reason with your editors about giving the families and friends of the victims privacy? How do you think media should handle tragedies such as these? Should journalists not tell the story at the expense of not getting the word out about the precious lives that were lost? Or is covering tragedy too closely an invasion of families' privacy and disrespectful? Make the call by leaving a comment.

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