Mary Arata, Emily Royalty, Ed Niser and I (Kate King) attended a convention last week hosted by the New England Society of Newspaper Editors. One of the agenda items was ethics and how the Internet impacts journalistic standards.
At issue was the nature of the Internet and the fact that once there, a photo or story is there forever.
We were asked what we would do in the following case: A Connecticut newspaper received a video showing a hunting party. The hunters on the video said that the previous day two deer had been shot but only one was found due to darkness. The group had returned to the area the next day and located the injured deer in a stream. It was this second day that was videotaped.
What followed on this video was distressing. Having been shot in the hip, the deer couldn't get out of the water.
The deer was shot again but still lived. He was stabbed and still lived. He appeared to drown when his head fell beneath the surface, and still lived. And so on.
The hunter was charged with animal cruelty, a misdemeanor. He is expected to plea down to a lesser charge.
The question was: Should we put the video on our websites knowing it would offend many who watched it and it would be there for a long time.
The video is already on the Internet since those who filmed it circulated it among their friends. It was these friends who were so incensed by the video, they sent it to a newspaper.
What would you do? Put the video on our website with a disclaimer warning of its disturbing nature? While we want to be sensitive to those who would be upset by the film, do we want to go so far as censorship? Do people have a right to make up their own minds about what they see?
Please email us your thoughts at firstname.lastname@example.org. No name necessary. We'll publish some of the responses next week.