Gawker responses to family, removes gruesome photo

(Note: This blog was originally published on 11/10/2010 as a part of a class project for Emerson College’s New and Society class.)

On Friday, Oct. 29, Joe Jusko made the following plea on a deviantart.com message board:

“My 21-year-old nephew and godson Christopher Jusko, my brother’s only child, was murdered in New York City on Monday morning….. His throat was cut and he was then stabbed in the back, stumbled down two flights of stairs and died on the sidewalk. Someone with absolutely no conscience snapped a cell phone pic of his body before the police arrived and sent it to GAWKER.com who published it…..We are now hoping an email campaign that inundates them with enough negative feedback will result in the removal of the photo.”

Write the editor, Joe Jusko urged.

“It would mean the world to my entire family.”

Two weeks later, the blogosphere still is reeling from the graphic photo of Jusko’s corpse lying on the sidewalk as blood, draining from wounds in his neck and back, pools nearby.

Gawker editors eventually caved to the family’s request and rightfully so. Still, Gawker’s Hamilton Nolan wrote, in an e-mail to Washington D.C.-based TBD.com, that the photo was posted as a warning about violence and is newsworthy.

Nolan is quoted as telling TBD.com that blood and gore do not make a photo unworthy of being published.

Hmm…Interesting. I can’t help but think that Gawker’s decision to publish the photo was anything but an attempt to get people to click on its Web site. It worked. People did click. They always do.

Those who side with Gawker argue that graphic photographs give readers and viewers an honest portrayal of life that they would otherwise not have. Readers get a better understanding of the world they live in. The New York Daily News reported a 15 percent increase in the number of murders in the city, Jusko’s murder among them.

The bigger issue here is that Gawker crossed a line at the expense of its readers, Jusko and his family. The photo added nothing to the story of Jusko’s death. It didn’t help give us any details of the alleged love triangle behind the crime or helpe us understand a city experiencing an increase in crime.

We just see the end result — a body, bloody and motionless. A photo of a white sheet covering Jusko as cops walked nearby would have told us the same story.

Sensationalized photos should not be used just because they are sensational. If the photo does not add anything of value to the story then leave it out.

It is true. A graphic photo can tell the story better than a writer can with words. AP photographer Eddie Adams captured the last minutes of Viet Cong Operative Nguyen Van Lam, who was executed at the hands of a Vietnamese general. The photo won Adams a Pulitzer Prize in 1969 and showed Americans the brutality of war.

Another famous photo shows a 9-year-old Kim Phuc running naked down a street after American planes dropped napalm during the Vietnam War.

These photos didn’t just tell Americans about war. They took Americans to the faces living in war zone.

Good photos, unlike the one published to Gawker’s Web site, add a level of depth and understanding.

War was a distance concept until photojournalists brought us images from the combat zone. It happened in faraway lands and never touched the lives of Americas until a loved one was shipped home in a coffin.

The photos added value.

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