CAUTION: Images on this page may upset readers.
Several viewers of FOX 4 (KDFW) in Dallas, TX, wrote in protest of the station's live broadcasting of dead body footage during its coverage of hurricane Katrina from New Orleans, LA. Be forewarned, those viewers won't like what is written or shown in this article either.
Screen captures from various
streaming news (FOX, CNN, AP,) videos:
On 4 September the actual body count has not yet begun in New Orleans, although local and federal officials say on this day that the storm death total could exceed 2,000.
Nonetheless, live news organizations have a choice during a disaster situation. Those choices definitely alter the objectivity of what the viewers may see through their television screen.
Print (or Internet) publications make deliberate choices on what is published, because there is time to think and react prior to hitting the submit or publish button.
This editorial is deliberate and intentional.
Here are some comments from FOX 4 viewers:
"For the newscasters to show a deceased person floating in water shows a serious lack of judgment and lack of respect for the dead. Are reporters so immune that they have no clue what it would be like to be missing a family member for days and then to see them show up on the 9:00 news in that manner?" No information was given by FOX 4 on the author.
"Is it really necessary to stoop to the level of showing the dead bodies of Katrina victims on the news? Is this for drama, ratings, or just poor taste and no thought for the pain of people in your viewing area?" No information was given by FOX 4 on the author.
FOX 4 News editor, Chip Mahaney responded in cover e-mail to viewers that while the station realized the sight of a dead body offends many viewers, "in this disaster, dead bodies (hundreds or thousands of them) are seemingly everywhere."
Mahaney said that the dead bodies are "part of the story" and that "our job as journalists" is to tell the living truth from the ground at the scene. He vowed to alert viewers in future when the news footage may appear to be offensive.
For those FOX 4 viewers who e-mailed the station, it is the professional opinion of Think & Ask that viewers' angst is misguided against FOX 4. We agree with FOX that indeed "dead bodies" are and were very much a part of the Katrina story, one which continues to unfold six days past.
One viewer commented that FOX 4 dishonored the dead from a far by showing the body...and he is dead wrong. He might think that by avoiding disaster-related images, the event itself is more comforting from the rear of his easy-chair.
However, monitoring that viewer's comfort, or the public's horror of a disaster is not a part of journalism. Those repsonses are saved for your elected officials.
If some in Big D wish to tune out to events around them, they have every right. But responsible news organizations do not make decisions based upon what you can stomach, nor your personal desire for a rosy world. Go to church services for perfection.
Considering death and destruction on Earth each week, the media in the United States rarely show dead bodies...ever. If it was common practice however, you viewers would have already noticed at least 26,000 dead body pictures from Iraq since 2003, and more than 5 million dead body pictures from across the continent of Africa during the 1990s. (Just to name two examples.) You were spared.
New Orleans is on our doorstep however. Those people are and were United States citizens. They are part of us, dead or alive.
Viewers should be saddened by the footage shown on FOX, on CNN, by video feeds from the Associated Press and others. They should be disgusted, but not by FOX 4. No, FOX 4 gave you the information, FOX 4 told you the story as it unfolded. Now, what you do with that information Dallas, is up to you.
Ask -- how could so many die? Demand answers from the government you support with your federal taxes. Put some dignity into those dead bodies by demanding better answers than, "no one expected the levees to break."
And you --Dallas-- had better know these answers before the 'big tornado' hits...are you comfortable knowing that 5 days will pass before help arrives from the White House?
Until you do ask questions of the powers that be, Dallas viewers, your brains are no more alive than those bodies you've seen floating in New Orleans.
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