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5 Keys to the Controversy Over NY Post Photographer's Subway Death Photo

The story is far more complicated than much of the media has portrayed.

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Abbasi said that after police officers examined his photos for images of the perpetrator at the Post’s office, he left the camera’s memory card with the editors. On the Today Show, he said that using the photo on the cover “is not my decision, I was on assignment and all the images were provided. I don’t control which images are used and how it is used and how it is presented.” Although it may seem easier to just let editors decide what to do with one’s photos, we all have important viewpoints and are fit to give editorial advice. Abbasi could and should have been a part of the Post’s editorial process (however crazy it may be). He took these tragic photographs, and so he should want to have a say in if and how they are used.

5. He has continued to defend himself. Speaking to The New York Times yesterday, Abbasi said, “Every time I close my eyes, I see the image of death. … I don’t care about a photograph.” On the Today Show as well as in a piece published by the Post, Abbasi reiterated that he was too far from Han to help him, but he still tried his best to do so.

In the end, we will never know what happened, and so it doesn’t make much sense to focus on demonizing Abbasi alone. As Abbasi wrote in the Post, “I can’t let the armchair critics bother me. They were not there. They have no idea how very quickly it happened.”

But we can always learn something from tragedy. For one, hopefully advertisers and readers will one day realize the excessive damage done by the New York Post, and the tabloid will cease to exist.

This incident in particular also sparks a discussion on how to make subways safer. Some cities can learn good tips from others. For example, some metro stops in London have a glass structure between the platform and the tracks, with doors that open with the train’s doors.

It also encourages people who happen to capture tragedies via photos or videos to take part in the editorial process, making rules and setting limits on how their captures are used. Also, hopefully people never cash in on tragedies. But, if they think their photo or video is important for the public to see (which in a personal tragedy like Han's is doubtful), they can make sure it’s not used in a sensationalized way.

Most importantly, it reminds all media professionals that they must be human beings before journalists — something that, with the abundance of competitive, profit-driven media, they may often forget.

 

Watch Abbasi's full interview with the Today Show here:

Alyssa Figueroa is an associate editor at AlterNet. 

 
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