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The TOTEM Poll: Totally Off Topic, Everything Media
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Old November 16th, 2004, 12:27 PM   #1
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Shooting / filming a jumper

Today I saw a jumper just a block away from my neighbourhood. To make a long story short, I don't know what happened to her (you can read about it in my blog). I left after she threw down her little white dog from ten stories up. It was horrible but I feel okay about it now. Just wondering if she followed through with her threat.

Anyway, it was so close I could have gone back to grab a camera (I just have a digital still camera now, not video). But I decided, what was the point really? The local news won't use it because it encourages jumpers who want extra attention. So then, why would it matter if I recorded her last moments? It's goullish but then I was being a goul by watching her scream for help and yell and then kill her dog.

What would you do?
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Old November 16th, 2004, 12:51 PM   #2
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I'd film it just becuase it is a moment so rare, what are the chances of encountering that scenario again? What if she was rescued? I'd put the camera on a tripod, not watch what happens, and then put the tape away and probably never watch it, but at least I'd have it. That is what I would do (and I don't need a morality lacture from anybody today, thank you.)
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Old November 16th, 2004, 02:41 PM   #3
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The curse of being a photojournalist is that we go running toward what everyone else is running away from.

When I worked as a newspaper photographer, I had to deal with subjects like that. I've seen my share of bad things. You are better off avoiding it if you can.

I was coverng a "routine" assignment when a State Police diver accidentally drowned. It was pretty shocking and scary. It happened so quickly that everyone was stunned. There was only silence and the sound of rushing water. I wanted to scream.

The hardest part is dealing with our emotions after we see something like that. I was able to write a few short paragraphs about the drowning which was actually quite cathartic, I was able to express the horror of it and get it out of me.

Most media outlets, stay away from suicides. I'm trying to remember what we did at my newspaper. We may not have run anything, if we did, it was buried, somewhere, inside the news section.

I have a difficult time covering some hard news subjects, like car crashes and fires, because I am invading someone's pricvacy and I have yet to figure out how to cover grief without being intrusive. I put myself in their position and I certainly wouldn't want someone in my face asking me how I feel. These are people at their most vulnerable. That's why nowadays I only shoot commercial and narrative stuff. I don't want to have to deal with all of that.

I always felt that papparazzi ambush/steak out photogs are rapists. I really don't care what so and so looks like on her day off, or who's shagging whom. The problem is that some media outlets will pay thousands of dollars for exclusives of celebs in compromising situations. To willingly hunt down people and shoot them is rude and crass and the equivalent of rape. As long as there is a demand for those pictures/images, there will be papparazzi. I feel like the days of the concerned photojournalist are long gone and "If it bleeds, it leads" sensationalism is the norm. It makes me sick.

After taking the time to write all of this, oddly enough my answer would be that if I had my camera with me and I came upon the situation, I would photograph it. I just wouldn't use it. Justification? Covering news is different, you are reacting to a situation, not creating one. I feel somewhat duty bound to cover it if I happen across it. If I had to go home and get a camera, then I would think twice.

This is the thin line that you come up to in almost every spot news situation. How to cover death and grief with tact, repsect and some kind of decency. It is nearly impossible.
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Old November 16th, 2004, 02:55 PM   #4
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<<<-- I don't need a morality lacture from anybody today, thank you.>>>

I guess my question is, what is the morality of it anyway? Of recording someone in that situation? If you remove the possibility that you might be able to recoup from photographing or filming it, what is the point behind doing it?
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Old November 16th, 2004, 03:46 PM   #5
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Tragic...

There are certain things in life that most people do not have to experience, seeing someone die so tragically and especially by their own hand is one of them.

An unfortunate part of my job is that I have to see people in some of the worse situations that anyone can possibly imagine. It is not easy and it does things to you on an emotional level.

Dealing with the carnage of an airplane crash, car crash or murder is something that will stay with you the rest of your life.

Personally, if it wasn't part of what I do for a living, I would avoid these horrific events altogether.

Now, if I were responding to a situation like Keith brought up, I would be compelled to shoot the event, but I would more than likely concentrate on the efforts of the rescue teams and not stay on the victim in case she jumped.

As far as morality, that is indeed a fine line. I have never had much love for the news vultures but like everything else, if there is a demand for something, there will always be someone there to deliver, that is just the nature of the beast.

Keith, you are absolutely correct...there is no "good" reason for shooting it. I also don't think that I could accept "blood" money for something as sad as what you have described.

Mark's comparison to rape, although a little extreme does make sense. The flip side to this is that when you attain a certain degree of celebrity, and become a "public" figure, you pretty much give up any reasonable expectations of privacy.

Anyway, like politics and religion, this is more a matter of opinion than anything else. We all have to live with what we do!

RB
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Old November 16th, 2004, 04:11 PM   #6
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True what Rick said about being a public figure.

I just feel that if I was covering a fire and someone's house is on fire, I am not going to come rushing up and starting shootng the homeowner. That's just wrong. Like Rick said, I'll get photos of the fire fighters fighting the fire and leave it at that.

As a photojournalist that kind of stuff comes with the territory, you do it because it's part of the job. I hated shooting spot news. If I didn't have to shoot it, I wouldn't have. The trick is to do it with respect and tact and leaving your subject with their dignity intact.

I would think it pretty morbid if someone who was not a news professional were to run back and get their camera and start shooting. But that is my opinion and my morality.

The question is about morality, so it begs an answer about morality.

Also, my hats off to police and fire fighters who put their life on the line every day.
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Old November 16th, 2004, 04:36 PM   #7
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Last summer we had some major floods in my area that were all over the national news. I woke up early the morning after and it occured to me that this could be an opportunity so I thought about grabbing my cameras and heading about 3 miles from my house where the worst damage had just occured. But I just couldn't convince myself to do it; would have felt wrong to wander around filming the misfortunes of my neighbors. Of course it didn't stop any of the TV stations from live coverage of sobbing homeowners standing next to their devastated homes. But I guess I'm just not cut out for that kind of thing.

Mark, that's an interesting comment about the media not covering suicides. About a year ago someone jumped from the top of a parking garage across the street from our offices. I thought it was strange that it didn't appear on the evening news or in the paper. Wow, is there actually something that's still sacred when it comes to the news media? ;-)
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Old November 16th, 2004, 05:00 PM   #8
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Boyd, because I was still wondering if the woman had survived or not I called the major radio news station here and was directed to the news director there. I asked him about it and he didn't know about it and I said would he be reporting on it later and he said "no because I don't feel we should be adding to her troubles." He later said he might call the police later to find out about it but not to expect anything to appear on the news broadcast.
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