Dec 5, 2012 · 4 minutes

This morning, as I was clicking around major news sites, I was terribly upset to read about an elderly man who was pushed onto a New York subway track and killed by an oncoming train. Maybe it hit close to home because my grandmother lives on 49th street, and I know the location well.

I was further disgusted by the New York Post’s cover story and photograph of the tragedy. But what pushed my fury into oblivion — and made me feel sick to my stomach — was the reaction that came to pass a few hours later as a bunch of dino-journalists had the audacity to debate the ethics of the New York Posts’ shoddy, piss-poor excuse for journalism.

Let me disclose my bias, first. I have a problem with many dino-journalists. I don’t like how they mock the younger generation of aspiring writers, calling them scabs for taking unpaid work or looking down at bloggers, when they themselves could never get a job in the modern day. I don’t like how they complain about their salaries, even though their employer is losing money.

I don’t like how they shat all over new media innovators -- like my own company -- because we had been in existence for about 18 months and had not yet gotten our quality up to the standards they spent 150 years establishing.

But the thing that irks me the most about so many dino-journalists, is that they often think of themselves as knights in shining armor -- the Fourth Estate -- when so many of them are just smug assholes. This bias does not apply to all journalists, many of whom are great, but it applies to a lot of them.

Consider all of the “ethical debate” taking place about the New York Post cover... A simple Google search will reveal countless articles like this one and this one and this one, in which the most Triassic of the dinosaurs wax poetic about what is ethical or not. The Atlantic quotes one anonymous (and therefore pusillanimous) photo-journalist as saying:

As a photographer, your instinct is to act with your camera. However, this situation is a little more complicated, as it presents a slightly more immediate moral dilemma seeing as how (again, assuming you had the time and physical ability) there's a reasonable chance you, as a good Samaritan, could have helped… Interestingly, we don't ask this of any other photographer covering other atrocities and far more violent scenes that move over wires every day from the Middle East and elsewhere.
No, there is nothing “interesting” about the blatant difference between actual news in the Middle East and photographic rubber-knecking of someone else’s misfortune. Another journalist is quoted:
He's just one person who had to make a snap decision under pressure. Far more deserving of fault I think are the tabloid vultures in the newsroom that negotiated, paid for, and published this photo...
Yup, it’s all the tabloid’s fault, because they “paid for it." Even Larry King tried to solicit conversation on Twitter by asking “Did the New York Post go too far?” Jesus.

How about these journalists relate the news with some objectivity. The story is pretty straightforward and goes something like this:

  • An asshole with a camera saw the poor man on the tracks, and opportunistically took a photograph.
  • He then sold that photograph for a profit, exploiting someone else’s suffering for gain.
  • The New York Post — which loses millions of dollars a year — tried to sell copies of their piece of shit "newspaper" by publishing the cover story...even though it is not news.
  • Journalists are using this despicable story as a chance to have "dialogue" about their profession or imply that there might be a silver lining (i.e. subway safety may now benefit from the events).
We don’t need expert journalists to tell us what the NPAA Code of Ethics has to say on the matter. For the record, this great bastion of right and wrong warns against receiving gifts from photo subjects, but says nothing about selling photos to newspapers that intend to exploit them. Dino-journalists don’t need to protect their profession by using diluted language — words like “tasteless” or “questionable” — to describe something that was absolutely sub-human in its disgust.

Or play the "I would not have done that" card, thereby separating themselves from this story in particular, but not really condemning anyone.

It’s not a moral grey area.

Every single journalist should be appalled by what the New York Post did, and they have a responsibility to speak out against it. As do accountants, farmers, teachers, engineers, and every other member of the pulse-sustaining public. Here's a test for you, dino: What would you be writing today if a so-called citizen journalist had recorded it on YouTube and released it freely online? Cause you can bet, the dialog would have been different.

The freelance photographer — even if he couldn’t help the poor man — should not have snapped the photo and sold it.

The newspaper should not have put the picture on the front page.


[Image Credit: shvmoz on Flickr]