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WDAY: The News Leader

Published December 05, 2012, 09:35 PM

Controversial photo brings up moral questions

Fargo, ND (WDAY TV) - Photos of a man taken just before he was killed by a subway train are raising questions about the media's role when witnessing tragic events.

By: Becky Parker, WDAY Staff Reports, WDAY

Fargo, ND (WDAY TV) - Photos of a man taken just before he was killed by a subway train are raising questions about the media's role when witnessing tragic events.

A freelance photographer snapped the photos, and some are outraged that he didn't help the man, instead.

This photo published on the cover of the New York Post shows Ki-Suck Han of Queens, just moments before a subway train struck and killed him.

It's raising questions about the media's role in these situations.

Martin Grindeland, MSUM Mass Communications Professor: "Kind of the rule is that if you have the time to do that, obviously you try to save someone's life rather than take a great photo."

The photographer claims he was too far away to help, and snapped the photos to set off his camera flash, hoping to alert the train driver that someone was on the tracks.

For some, it's a balance between the responsibilities of being a person and being a journalist. An uninvolved observer.

Partick Schmiedt, NDSU Journalism Instructor: "Most people tend to fall in the middle of that spectrum. You've gotta be a human, but you've also gotta document as well."

Besides the question of whether the photographer should have helped, another is whether the shocking photo should have been published on the cover at all.

Grindeland: "It's a moment in time where he is alive, so generally the rule is, you can use a photo like that. You wouldn't use the photo where he's been hit by the train."

And for students of journalism at local campuses, watching the debate unfold is a learning opportunity.

Schmiedt: "It's important to have those types of discussions in classes and it happens to me quite often."

Emma Heaton, NDSU Student: "Taking into consideration the ethics of photography and you have to take the picture, I think my instant reaction would be to drop the camera and run to help that person."

30-year-old Naeem Davis was arrested today on a charge of murder for pushing Han onto the tracks.

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