The journalism of terror

Does the public have the right to know what is happening in the world or should it be protected from seeing any shocking  images and details? Saturday’s panel discussion, named “The Journalism of Terror”, recalled the notion of reporting the news in this time of conflict after conflict. Mark Little, founder and CEO of Storyful, started the discussion by saying that ‘journalism has never been more relevant than now.’
Ben Pear, editor at the news desk of Channel 4, raised the notion of broadcasting certain images on television. While there seemed to be a control over pictures linked, to a certain extent, with terror&disaster this can’t  be managed anymore due to the great amount of online material. The broadcasting of these shocking images has a big impact on the reader or even the journalists themselves. “With ISIS we just used audio of Jihadi John and after the second killing we didn’t show the images anymore,” he says, “We’re now sending others an e-mail with the message of not watching certain material or videos.”
According to Mark Little the viewer now has the right in his or her own hands, having to decide whether to watch the video or not. The media, on the other hand,  reckon the video’video’s to be too violent to post them on their websites or show them on television.
Chris Hamilton, social media editor at BBC News, explains the importance of trauma risk management. “Employees feel they have to watch the video’s as part of their jobs thinking that,  as a journalist, you can cope with it,” he says, “The specialised team knows what to do in these type of situations, first talking about it with the particular person.”
But if these prerecorded images are already too controversial to portray on television, will live streaming have a future in (conflict) journalism? Claire Wardle, research director at TOW Center, says this new innovation of ‘live imagery’ is a new complicated matter which is closely linked to the ethial note of showing ‘death’ to the public instantly. “I suspect it won’t take long before a hostage, like the Sydney siege, will be livestreamed on for example Periscope.”
Should social media platforms, such as Facebook and Google, start thinking about banning these appalling images? No, says Chris Hamilton, because it is, after all, also a form of evidence that complements the story.  Claire Wardle agrees, adding that “these platforms will never agree to taking these posts down since they consider themselves to be distributors instead of an editorial platform.”
In other cases, the reporting of a conflict or an event might involve no immediate responsible character which may influence the way the story is eventually presented. The panellists agree that using any conspiracy theory is on the borderline of a journalists ethical standards. “There is a level of interrogation with everything but sometimes these voices just need to be ignored,” Pear says. Hamilton agrees, adding: “As a journalist, you sometimes need to spot the fakes.”
Journalism in these times of terror is therefor a long way of making the right decisions at the right moment. With this never forgetting what the public wants and needs to know and see without revealing too much footage of the conflicts in the war zone.


Anneloes Viskil