We saw in class this week, and were asked to make news decisions for several gruesome photos.
Editors must decide every day when such photos are necessary to tell the story, when they are appropriate, when they offend too much, when they provide too much of a shock to swallow with morning coffee.
I believe that the shock value of a photo should correspond to the weight of the story. Disturbing, bloody events occur around the world daily, weekly, milisecondly. But when something important happens, and it is disturbing, readers need to be disturbed through images that convey the intensity of a situation.
In the case of Pennsylvania treasurer R. Budd Dwyer's suicide, I would use the first photo, when he pulls out the gun, but not later ones that show the gun in his mouth or his death. The situation is an intense one, and since it involves a public official in a public meeting, readers should be made aware through the dramatic photo with the gun. However, the situation is less than monumental, so readers should be spared the full gruesomeness; to show it would just be dramatization.
For a less wide-sweeping issue, I would err on the side of caution more. For instance, I don't think I would run photo, because the victim's tragedy is private, not public. The public doesn't need to be shocked here, and the family doesn't need their tragedy aired all over the media to make a point.
For a case like 9/11, I would have aired some of the most intense photos because this *was* a monumental moment, and the public needed the full effect to grasp the intensity and horror of the situation.
In summary: intensity of photos should be weighted to importance and far-reachingness of story.