Skip to comments.‘Worthless Piece of ****’: Did a Storm-Chasing Photographer Violate Journalism Ethics...
Posted on 06/20/2014 11:24:41 AM PDT by beaversmom
A photo snapped just minutes after two tornadoes wreaked havoc on Pilger, Nebraska, Monday has led to intense debate, causing some to wonder whether storm-chasing photojournalist Mark Storm Farnik acted unethically in photographing a little girl who was gravely injured.
Calista Dixon, 5, was found crushed under the weight of her familys mobile home. As Farnik watched paramedics carry her body on a stretcher as she barely clung to life, he snapped pictures, later selling one to the Associated Press (which published the picture), among other outlets (see the heartbreaking photo here).
Farnik said Dixon looked as though she had been through a bombing and that he was only able to photograph one side of her body due to the extent of her injuries. His heart shattered by what he observed, he later told media outlets, and he was moved by the compassion paramedics showed the child.
But as he took the photos, emergency personnel were reportedly angry, calling him a vulture. At least one firefighter asked him to stop, but Farnik refused to comply.
The people are a part of the story, he told USA Today. Ill be damned if I dont photograph the victims here, because thats the story that really matters, not the damage.
Dixon ultimately succumbed to her injuries and died.
All of these details in mind, the central question is: Did Farnik violate any journalism ethics or standards in his decision to photograph Dixon?
Kenny Irby, a photojournalist who teaches visual journalism at the Poynter Institute, told TheBlaze that based on what has been reported, Farnik didnt cross any professional lines.
But Irby urges journalists to consider and set personal standards on difficult moral and philosophical questions, as these situations can be tricky.
The basic premise that I offer for folks is [to] think about these decisions in advance and my suggestion is that youre a human being before youre a photojournalist or a journalist of any kind, he said, adding that reporters should give aid if they are able to do so.
In Farniks case, he reportedly did help out upon reaching Pilger, searching for survivors in the rubble and lending his hand where needed.
Irby said the role of a journalist is to show the tragedies of life and the horrors of life, meaning that there are moments when it serves the greater good to capture an individuals injuries or the full gravity of a dire situation.
[Farnik] said that he saw and was moved by the compassion, Irby said. Thats a justification for being able to tell that story to render to an audience the kind of courage thats involved.
As for paramedics reportedly expressing frustration with him taking photos, the ethics expert said that it doesnt appear as though Farnik was in the way or interrupting medical service both of which would have been professionally unacceptable.
In the aftermath of this tornado this particular photographer has not, in my view, violated any ethical code of conduct of principal, Irby added.
That hasnt stopped some from heavily criticizing Farnik.
Youre a coward. Be a man and make money off yourself and not 5 yr old dying girls, wrote Twitter user @Craig_Henslin.
Using some harsher language, @ukuleledan said: And the award for being a worthless piece of s**t goes to @StormFarnik.
Farnik also came under fire for a Facebook post he reportedly wrote earlier this month seemingly wishing for tragedy to strike before the tornadoes hit. He wrote: I need some highly photogenic and destructive tornadoes to make it rain for me financially.
USA Today noted that he has since removed the post, explaining that frustration drove the comment, and admitting that it was off-color. While Irby said this post might speak to motive, he called it circumstantial and said that, either way, no journalistic codes were broken.
Farnik has defended the use of the photo and announced this week that he will be holding a fundraiser to help pay for Dixons funeral expenses.
Reality TV. No modesty. Glad I have no appetite for that crap.
A worker in Tampa was backed over by a dump truck. (Per OSHA, he was wearing hearing protection and per OSHA the truck had a whistle, but there were so many whistles he didn’t hear or realize it was coming.) A cop stopped a (CBS as I recall) news team from photographing and taping the body which was flat. The family had not been notified and the cop didn’t want them seeing it on TV in the next 20 minutes. The news people sued the police and won. I don’t remember what the penalty was, but they can, apparently, photograph anything.
But my immediate thought was, there’s journalistic ethics? Really? Isn’t in journalistic malpractice to let a president get into office without asking all the same questions you asked of the last one?
He said money was not the primary motivator.
He said money WAS a motivator, just not the primary motivator.
If money was not a motivator to SELL pictures of a dying 5-yr old, what was?
Sheesh. . .scum.
It takes a second to take a good photograph, if one is ready to take it right there. It’s not going to affect the medical outcome of the person being photographed.
I remember reading that the photographer took a couple of pics of the little girl, then rushed her to the local medical facility.
He doesn’t sound like the worst of that lot, but this is just another lesson in why, just because you CAN do something, you sometimes shouldn’t.
That is a haunting image. I’m glad I didn’t take it.
It was news. I have no problem with the photographer’s actions.
Thanks for sharing about Kevin Carter. I was not familiar with his story. It sounds like many factors were involved:
“I’m really, really sorry. The pain of life overrides the joy to the point that joy does not exist... depressed ... without phone ... money for rent ... money for child support ... money for debts ... money!!! ... I am haunted by the vivid memories of killings and corpses and anger and pain ... of starving or wounded children, of trigger-happy madmen, often police, of killer executioners ... I have gone to join Ken if I am that lucky.”
He was a troubled soul.
At least one firefighter asked him to stop, but Farnik refused to comply.
It reminds me of the photos I took at my sister funeral. It was not well received by all. I was discreet in the process. But those photos have reminded me of my sister many times and also reminds me of my own mortality. No one else has wanted a copy of the photos.
Powerful images can help illustrate the news in many cases, even if very disturbing. This is not reality TV, this is reality. I think our news outlets are so afraid of offending that they must put a Disney cloak on their stories.
And while he may have had strictly mercenary intentions for taking the photo, I would suspect that the victims of most natural disasters do, in the end, benefit from people like him when their on-site photos are used to stoke emotions (and open wallets) for disaster relief charity drives. For example, I doubt there would have been anywhere near the donations to Katrina relief, Haitian Earthquake, etc. without the footage and photos of the aftermath.
I do think it's incumbent on the editorial staff and publishers that they shouldn't publish identifiable photos of victims; that's just human decency.
You have a point, and my generalization may not fit this particular situation very well. Thanks.
There’s the photo of the first responder and the child in the aftermath of the OK city bombing.
Sad story. Seems like he had a heart.
I didn’t know journalists still had ethics.
I’ll never forget that photo. My wife cried for an hour when she saw it.
hmm. Why don’t media outlets portray aborted babies?
I remember a photographer was chastised severely when he came upon a turned over tanker semi that was smoldering and he took several pictures rather than run to help the driver trapped in the cab. A few minutes later the truck began to burn and the driver was incinerated. The roll of film and the time it would take for the pictures questioned whether the photographer had plenty of time to try and save the driver. Wichita Falls, Texas, circa 1970. The photographer has to live with the choices they make just like everyone else.
Reminds me of the ‘Falling Man’ photo from the WTC.
Best of all worlds would be to pay EMS responders, have them train constantly, and never need to use them. Like insurance, or your personal defense weapon; have it, hope to never need it.
They don’t consider them news.
It was news. Life must be documented, even - perhaps especially - the distasteful parts. Whether it needs to be shown during the family hour is debatable.
Thank you. The first photo I thought of while I was reading this thread was of little Baylee.
But. There is a fine line between award wining photo-journalism and crass creepy picture taking.
I was one of the people on the side of not censoring images from the terrorist attacks of 9/11.
[ It was news. Life must be documented, even - perhaps especially - the distasteful parts. Whether it needs to be shown during the family hour is debatable. ]
Agree, by hiding these things from the public we detach society from certain realities...
The odd thing is that I think the objection would be less if not nonexistent had she pulled through. He's a photographer, not a doctor. He stayed out of the way of the paramedics. Yes, as a former firefighter, I would have been aggravated, too. As a parent, I would have been appalled--that's someone's baby!
But to a journalist, trying to bring home the devastation, to get people to realize how bad things were there, to perhaps even goad them into donating time, money, or supplies to a relief effort, the picture might be considered justified.
And yes, like any person who makes a living doing something, he wants to collect a check.
Bad taste? Arguably, yes. But it is a disaster, and disasters don't always have happy endings. It's his profession to show the world, warts and all.
He did help out, too, not just stand and take pictures.
Ditto. That's his job.
“journalism” & ethics are mutually exclusive.