The Associated Press distributed an image of Oscar Alberto Martinez Ramirez and his 23-month-old daughter, Valeria, migrants from El Salvador, dead in the Rio Grande this week. The AP, NYT and USA Today explained why they published the graphic photo.
The Associated Press
The AP issued a June 26 story explaining why it published the photo. In their explanation, the AP stated that the photo was “highly newsworthy and important” as well as “directly relevant to this ongoing story.”
The AP noted it warned its member news outlets that the photos were graphic. “We feel that distributing this image is consistent with the AP’s values and principles to bring factual information to the world,” the AP said.
The New York Times:
The New York Times explained its decision-making process in publishing the photo online and on its front page in a June 26 news story.
Times editors agreed the photo wasn’t gratuitous and was important to publish, the Times article reported. The article also noted that the Times doesn’t typically publish graphic photos on social media and this photo wasn’t an exception.
The newspaper’s associate masthead editor Tom Jolly is quoted as saying “In this case, after an almost two-hour conversation involving people with different backgrounds and perspectives, we felt that yes, this photo was an iconic moment that represented something bigger than just the image itself.”
“At least a dozen editors discussed the image, which came from The Associated Press, at length on Tuesday after seeing it on social media,” the Times wrote. “Once the photo’s legitimacy had been verified, editors decided to publish it online that evening with an article that reported on the victims, Óscar Alberto Martínez Ramírez and his 23-month-old daughter, Valeria, and explained the image’s significance in the immigration debate.”
The Times was criticized in January for publishing a graphic photo of dead bodies in Kenya, as iMediaEthics reported. After that, the newspaper created new guidelines for graphic photos, the Times’ article noted, which include:
- “Editors are advised to take enough time to discuss such a decision thoroughly, and to consult high-ranking editors as needed.
- “They should consider a series of questions and factors, including the newsworthiness of the event; how crucial the photo is to telling the story; the likely impact on loved ones, survivors and the community affected; and whether our judgment would be the same regardless of who the victims were or where the events occurred.”
USA Today published an article about the photos explaining its “senior leadership team” had a video call to discuss the images and coverage. “We unanimously agreed to publish the photographs but limit the images of the father and child. It’s not a decision we took lightly,” the article said.
USA Today posted warnings for readers on the photo and sent an advisory to its newsrooms in the USA Today Network. The article noted why USA Today found the photo important to publish:
“Death is a constant along the border, but rarely is it captured in such a direct way. And photography has the power to freeze a moment in time, one that in this case encapsulates the danger and desperation surrounding the exodus of immigrants primarily from Central American countries.”