On Disturbing Video and Difficult Content

POTENTIALLY DISTURBING VIDEO AFTER THE JUMP. Three days ago the Tampa Bay Times posted raw cell phone video of a fiery crash that took place on I-275 outside of Tampa, Florida. According to the Florida Highway Patrol Daniel Lee Morris, 28, was driving a friend’s SUV the wrong way down the interstate when he crashed into a car carrying four University of South Florida fraternity brothers. All died in the crash.

As of today, the Times still carries the video on its website. Local media handled use of the footage differently: Some used the whole clip, sound included; some used the video without sound; and some chose not to use it at all. Poynter.org, which owns the Tampa Bay Times, reported that “As of Wednesday afternoon [the day after posting it], the car crash video had 66,000 views on the Times’ site and another 154,000 views through a news network, said Anne Glover, digital content editor. That’s well over the average video on the site, Glover said. ‘For us, 4,000 views is good.’”

The video was recorded by 19-year-old Jada Wright, who posted it to her Facebook page. After being made aware of it, the Times—like other central Florida media outlets—downloaded the video and debated how it should be used. “I told them to post it,” Glover said. “I felt really confident that this was fair use, that it was posted on a public page, and that it was important to the story. I told [others at my paper] to keep trying to reach [Wright].”

This case brings us back to discussing how to treat difficult content, much like the case involving former Pennsylvania State Treasurer R. Budd Dwyer, and convicted killer Richard Allen Davis (see “Does it Shock or Inform?”). Much like the Dwyer and Davis examples, this video does help tell a tragic story. But what about how it was obtained? It might satisfy the legal definition of fair use, but what about the ethics of obtaining the video? And what about showing the video itself? What do you think?

Sources: Poynter.org, Tampa Bay Times, LiveLeak.com

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3 thoughts on “On Disturbing Video and Difficult Content

  1. Wow. While the video does help tell the story, I think the Times should have asked for permission to use it. They might be able to claim fair use, but what if the videographer didn’t want her foul language to be aired? Also, I feel like the family of those who died might want some input in how it’s used. While it tells the story of what happened, it needs to be used respectfully. It’s a tragic event after all, not something to use flippantly for shock-value.

  2. […] Here is the link to my professor’s blog post regarding this case study: Information Ethics Report […]

  3. […] first time such video has been discussed on this blog. See, for example, the recent case involving the video posted to Facebook and run by the Tampa Bay […]

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