Tuesday, November 17, 2009

A video was taken of 16-year-old Derrion Albert being beaten to death on a Chicago street. The video was taken by a person whose sister attended the same public school as Albert, but was not involved in the fight. Questions were raised when this said person contacted Chicago's WFLD-TV station to sell the video for cash. Was it "ok" to puchase the video which contained raw and gruesome footage? (see link of video below) WFLD-TV's vice president and news director on editorial process, Carol Fowler, asked why the "videographer" did not do anything to help the teen Albert but only film the fight? In the Poynter article Fowler discussed why she decided to air the video in the news (after providing the police with a copy of the video).
As a journalism ethics student do you agree with the station's purchasing the video ($250) and then airing? As a sidenote, when aired on the news a warning was put on before the video for its violence.


caitlindee said...

I think the news organization itself was right to retrieve the footage for broadcast (after all, this is important news here)and to pay the videographer $250 (the amount compensated to any photographer/videographer regardless of their professional experience).

I think the biggest ethical dilemma at hand here lies with the videographer. Was it "right" for the videographer to closely record the beating without interfering? I don't think so. Personally, I could not stick a camera in the face of a person being beaten to death - I would instinctively set the camera aside and immediately call 911 or try to break up the fight myself, even as a working journalist. The article says: "Had this video not existed, the impact of Albert's death would not have been the same." I agree that the video provided vital information for the case, but Derrion Albert's life may have been saved if the filmmaker made a quick phone call. This makes me question their role in the beating and their overall intention in recording it. Also, did they interrogate the person behind the camera at all? If I was the journalist assigned to this story, I'd immediately go to them with questions. I'd also have them help identify the murderers and any other individuals present in the video. We have an eyewitness to the death of Albert here and the TV station has access to this person. I think they should take advantage of that and get more answers.

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Lauren said...

Ethically speaking, I think that news station was right in purchasing the video and bringing it to public attention. If they didn't, someone else would have.

However, I don't think the individual who filmed the fight felt like he was in the wrong for anything. Sadly, people become desensitized when they witness violence often, and as mentioned this fight wasn't anything unusual. Maybe he was looking to make some quick cash, but I have a feeling that fights much worse than the one captured happen all the time, they are just kept in the low. But a fight can't be ignored when it's caught on video. Maybe this will be a sign to safety enforcement, the school, or a rude awakening to some people about the violence that goes on.

Laura L said...

I agree and do think the news organization had the right to purchase the footage. The video made the story stronger and I think the video told the story much more effectively than an article and did bring up the issue of violence.

I do think the videographer could have stepped in by at least calling 911 as well. I do think he or she may have been afraid to physically stop the fight for safety reasons. I think the news organization should have questions the videographer as well.

Chloe said...

I'm glad the news organization purchased the video, it definitely gave the story some jazz and flavor. In terms of the responsibility of the videographer - I don't want to accuse them of being irresponsible because I do not know what the exact situation was like for them. In a situation such as this maybe they were too afraid for whatever reason to call the police. This is where an interview with them, as many of you have mentioned, would have come in handy and provided more insight into the story.

Melissa said...

As everyone said before me, I think the news organization was obligated to purchase and air such powerful footage. Highlighting Albert's murder clearly showcases the problems with this Chicago community (and likely touched those living in similar low income, gang infiltrated communities). Unfortunately we've learned that most gang related deaths go unnoticed. The white washed media tends to pay attention to only certain kinds of murder -- families, Yale students, young white girls. Without that video I fear Albert's death would have been another statistic, another news blurb. The video clearly showcased the dangerous environment low income young people face and also shows how they can brutalize each other (my inner cultural analyst knows this happens because of the drug culture, broken welfare, destroyed education system, etc). People have a harder time viewing someone as just a number, just a murder statistic, when they watch him murdered with fists and plywood.

The news organization absolutely made the ethical decision.