If the United States government were to release a picture of the body of Osama bin Laden, and if it was gory as has been described, what would the media do with that image?
I have been pondering that in my mind off and on over the past two days, and I still have no firm bottom line about how to proceed. I am suspecting most major news operations are feeling the same.
Should I expect to see such a photo on the front page of The New York Times? While internet searches, and blogs such as this one very well may use the released picture, would I want any kid in America to see this image on the newstand in the market while shopping with mom? Probably not, depending on the age of the kid. I can only image the onslaught of phone calls and nasty emails from outraged folks nationwide if newspapers plastered the image above the fold. I really do not, in any way, think this will happen.
Yet the pictures are the very definition of news, and I have long argued, on every issue, that more information is always better. My gut tells me to use the photo, in some way, if they are released. We are mature nation, and can handle the truth.
That the photos themselves are controversal before the potential release of them adds to the value they serve as a new story. Some people around the world think they need to see the pictures to prove bin Laden is dead. That is not the case for me, or for many millions of others in this nation. But given that there is uncertainty among some about the death of bin Laden, the ‘need’ to see the photos in and of itself is now a news story, and so the release of any picture would be a major part to the story.
Whatever else happens, one thing is for sure if the pictures are released. There will be many discussions over time if the right call was made about how they were treated in the media.
Just another spoke of one of the most interesting stories the world has had in a very long time.
Osama bin Laden may be more interesting in death than he was alive.