In her Readers’ Champion column on Friday, Nancy Fielder describes how “social media” and the internet have changed the way news is gathered and accessed.
She welcomes the fact that mobile phones with cameras mean that anyone can now record such incidents as the slaughter of the soldier in Woolwich and then upload them to the internet. She refers to people who were after an “instant snapshot” not having to wait until the evening news or next day’s newspapers.
As if we couldn’t have guessed it before, we now know that the person lying dead on the street, whose barely-covered body could be seen by viewers of ITV News, was a husband, father, son, stepson and brother. The media reported that he was a serving soldier based at Woolwich (imagine the effect this must have had on anyone who had a relative or friend there). It is not, usually, until an inquest has taken place, or during the trial of the perpetrator(s), that details of a murder victim’s death are made public.
Nancy may think that newspapers and TV news channels were serving the public in the way they handled this story but not everyone will agree. The media have tried subsequently to justify showing these images by claiming that, in Nancy’s words, they were “all over the web”. There are many other things “all over the web”, including hard-core pornography and, as this case has shown, terrorist propaganda.
Does that justify responsible news media publishing such material?