SHOULD JOURNALISTS REPORT “LOOTERS?”

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In the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey’s devastation of Houston, ABC News chief national correspondent Tom Llamas suffered massive backlash after notifying police of “looting” taking place. On Twitter, Llamas tweeted “We informed police of the looting and Coast Guard is flying overhead. Multiple officers now on the scene.”

Llamas had reportedly already been in contact with police and mentioned that he saw people with faces covered going into a nearby supermarket. The backlash on Twitter was swift. One user said “What did you imagine the hungry people were taking from the grocery store? Big-screen TVs?” Another said “Your NYC reporter whose family is safe thought cops should protect property instead of rescuing human beings.”

When covering a news event, what are a reporter’s obligations? Should he or she simply stick to reporting? Or do they have some obligation to report what they believe may be a crime taking place? Of course, as Brian Flood pointed out on The Wrap, there may be “a difference between ‘looting’ and grabbing food and supplies to survive a devastating emergency.” What do you think?

Sources: The Wrap via Yahoo.com

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Snapchat … can kill?

ohsnapNBC News recently covered a story (click the image above) involving a deadly crash in Tampa, Fl. that authorities say may have been caused by a passenger in one of the cars using Snapchat’s video speed filter feature. Law enforcement authorities reported that approximately ten minutes before the crash, a female passenger (who along with the driver were killed in the crash) was using Snapchat’s speed video filter to record the driver driving at 115 mph. The car they were riding in collided with a minivan, killing a mother and her two children.

In the video, law enforcement officials question the purpose of the speed filter and suggest that it may have played a role in a number of other accidents. Although Snapchat said “our hearts are broken for all those affected by this tragic car accident,” and although the company claims that they actively discourage using the speed filter while driving, one has to wonder why Snapchat doesn’t simply remove the filter.

What are the ethical issues involved here? What do you think? Should Snapchat remove the filter? To what degree are they responsible for any accidents that may be related to using the feature?

Update (November 2, 2016): Here’s another case involving the Snapchat speed filter that was used by an 18-year-old driver who crashed, critically injuring a passenger in her car. In this case, Snapchat is being sued because it “has an obligation under the law not to place dangerous items into the stream of commerce.” Thanks to Catherine Adams for the tip.