The New York Post‘s decision to publish a photograph of a man struggling to climb out of a subway track moments before he was hit – and subsequently killed – by a train has sparked debate over whether the photographer was wrong to document the event.
The image, which can be seen here, ran with the headline: “DOOMED: Pushed on the subway track, this man is about to die.”
The moment was captured by the Post‘s freelance photographer R. Umar Abassi, who said he was hoping the flash on his camera would attract the attention of the driver.
The Post defended Abassi’s actions, saying: “Not being strong enough to physically lift the victim himself, the photographer used the resources available to him and began rapidly flashing his camera to signal the driver to stop.”
Media ethics website iMediaEthics brought up the phrase “if it bleeds, it leads” in an article on the image. However, it adds: “This photograph is different; in that Han is not yet dead in the photographs. They document the final terrifying seconds of his life. The moment of death is so intensely personal.”
The Washington Post‘s Jonathan Capehart criticised Abassi’s decision to take photographs instead of attempting to help the victim. “We journalists are observers,” he wrote. “But there are times in a reporter’s life when the detachment must give way to humanity.”