Easing Back into Things

There will be something sports-related later today, but for now let’s just be happy that we didn’t witness something truly tragic last night.

The picture I posted will be the most graphic image you will see from us in regard to last night’s incident. There are worse pictures out there and anyone with a search engine can find them, but they won’t be here.

There is a voyeuristic side of us all, a need to know what all the fuss is about. That is the reason the incident will be on YouTube and all over the news for the next few days. There are water coolers to fuel and opinions to formulate for the talking heads, and that visual evidence is necessary to keep the engine of the mainstream media chugging along.

Still, it is nice to see some people in the industry maintain a level of censorship regarding the issue. Kudos to MSG for not showing the full video of the incident itself, and for keeping the camera off the majority of the ice long enough for it to be cleaned up. That single shot of a trail of blood is enough to forever ingrain that incident in my memory.

Someone in the control booth realized that whatever they showed would be national news by night’s end and replayed ad nasuem on ESPN regardless of Zednik’s condition. It was good to see a group of people collectively show respect to what just happened and not sacrifice their integrity for the prospect of good video.

Also, as pictures from the AP and Don Heupel appear showing some pretty gruesome sights, I take a small bit of pride in the fact that the Getty images have been pretty tame. More specifically, I haven’t seen anything from Buffalo News photojournalist Bill Wippert that makes my stomach turn, unlike Heupel’s work. Having worked with Wippert before, it is nice to see a local journalist showing restraint with such a terrible event. Looking at the Getty website you can see there are much worse images taken by Wippert then what was selected by the major news sources. I’d hope those shots continue to be left alone.

When incidents like this occur it makes me wonder who is responsible for the judgment calls like showing video or images of it. My instincts point to gatekeepers like ESPN or your local news as the primary sources, but the question of individual people like Wippert and Heupel is something I don’t have the answer to.

Perhaps it is out of their hands; they have signed contracts and are obligated to give up any shots taken. However, if they do have the choice of withholding images too explicit for public view, I would have to commend people like Wippert for walking the line of informing the public and respecting those involved and their families. No one wants to be haunted by the image of a relative seriously hurt, and so while the general public may want to see it all a level of personal interest must be shown.

It is more than possible that I have no place to comment on yesterday’s event. I’m just a hockey fan with only my own morality to guide my thinking. Still, I’d like to think yesterday was handled pretty well by us hockey fans. We were on the edge of something truly awful last night and acted accordingly.

I’d like to say that’s always the case, but you know better than that.

6 Comments

  1. Anonymous

    I find it rather sad that when it comes to photojournalism, the trend seems to be “sugar coat it, dumb it down, don’t let the photos reflect the truth if the truth isn’t pleasant”. Regardless of the severity or the reality of what actually happened, it IS what happened. Why tiptoe around the edges, and only put enough light on the subject to indicate what happened, without actually SHOWING what happened?

    Photojournalism shouldn’t be sugarcoated, it should be the truth. Unpleasant or not. That’s what photojournalism IS. It’s a record of history, of the events in life, not a pleasant view of the negative events in life.

    Robb McCaghren
    http://www.novusphotography.ca

  2. Maal

    Very well said. Also, I found your site through MJ over at My Safety is Harvard, and have blogrolled you.

  3. Jon

    Mr. McCaghren,

    Your comment was very well written, and it is certainly a valuable argument. For the most part I agree, but for a blog that prides ourselves on being somewhat family friendly, opting for a “safe” picture was our only option. However, I feel the photo that Ryan posted is a very good piece of photojournalism, and is every bit as effective as a picture that may have shown a trail of blood.

    The photo (URL posted at the bottom of this comment) shows Zednik being carried off of the ice by a trainer and teammate, obviously under considerably duress and appearing limp, while teammates and fans watch with a look of absolute horror. I feel as if that picture does an excellent job of “showing what happened,” and I think you would be inclined to agree.

    I’m sure the newsrooms in Western New York and Florida were faced with tough decisions last night. An argument could be made for printing a gruesome or a “safe” picture, but for our particular blog, we had to go with the latter. I don’t think it is tiptoeing around the situation, it is just keeping in accordance with the values that we maintain in writing this blog.

    Thanks for the comment, we appreciate the thoughtful response.

  4. Robb

    Jon,

    Indeed, you are correct. I didn’t realize that this blog was strictly “family oriented”, so I agree with your decision to put a “family friendly” photo with the story. While still conveying the gravity of the situation, it does it without being sensational. I do respect that.

    That said, my comments earlier were more of a generalized statement towards media as a whole. I’m just breaking into media work myself, and find it really weird that some of my photos illicit a “oh my god, how could you POST that?” responses from some places. In my line of thinking, as a photojournalist, it’s my job to record events AS they happen, the way it happened – be it shocking, joyful, depressing, or incredibly inspiring. I once took a photo of a young man who died after wrecking his car – driving drunk and running from the police at 9 in the morning on a saturday. I posted the photo, which was not overly graphic, and the ripples were felt for weeks. It confused me, because I thought AS a photojournalist, one is supposed to invoke a response from the viewer.

    Anyways. I have your blog bookmarked, and look forward to reading more in the future. 🙂

    Robb

  5. Ryan

    Robb,

    With regards to my decision to post the wide shot of a clean ice surface, Jon is spot on in calling us a “family friendly” blog. We’ve tried very hard to be more then just a one time use, sensationalist site that uses shock to get people to come back.

    The larger issue of censorship was something that sort of crept up in my mind, and that’s why I addressed it with this post.

    There is a large part of me that completely agrees with you. Photojournalism shouldn’t be held back by anything more then the ambition of those who work in the field.

    With that said, I was sort of wondering out loud where the responsibility is to keep some of the more graphic views of the incident away from the general public until it was known that those involved would be okay.

    The work of Wippert and Heupel isn’t anything to be ashamed of, but I was curious to see where that line is and who is supposed to follow it.

    Your response has given me a much better view of the issue, and so thank you for your input.

    Also, a quick look over your website tells me that you do really nice work. I hope we don’t offend you with my terrible camera phone pictures…