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Blog // Travel
May 16, 2008

Appropriate News Reporting

There’s something of a news controversy brewing here in Hong Kong. As you would all be aware, the recent earthquake in Southwestern China is a tragedy on a massive scale. Not surprisingly, the local news has been saturated with coverage of the rescue effort. Quite a lot of the news has focussed on the number […]

There’s something of a news controversy brewing here in Hong Kong.

As you would all be aware, the recent earthquake in Southwestern China is a tragedy on a massive scale. Not surprisingly, the local news has been saturated with coverage of the rescue effort. Quite a lot of the news has focussed on the number of schoolchildren who died and the quality of the school buildings that became their tombs.

It is not uncommon in Asia for newspapers to print pictures of the dead, though they tend to be circumspect in doing so. However, the South China Morning Post decided to place on its front cover a picture of rescue workers uncovering seven dead children (primary school age). The photo was taken from above the rescue workers and the children’s faces were clearly visible. It’s one of the most unsettling images I have ever seen in print.

There’s been a widespread response to the image and questions raised about its appropriateness. To be fair, the SCMP has been willing to publish letters to editor critical of the decision. On the other hand, some readers have supported the move, suggesting it inspired them to give charitably to the relief effort.

But, should we need to see such shocking images in order to be motivated to care and offer our support. Last week the SCMP lead with an almost equally gruesome image of dead bodies strewn in the aftermath of the Myanmar storms. Have we so lost touch with reality that we need to see such plain imagery to remind us what disaster and human suffering looks like?

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