Writers and Responsibility

Within the last week I came across two local incidents and the papers' articles about them. They made me wonder what's happening to the world of writing, specifically writing and news.

The first incident occurred last week. A family in a borough of New York City were the victims of a home invasion. The family has 4 children who were fortunately asleep while the invasion took place. The intruders came to the door as police officers and once the door was opened, they pushed their way in. They bound the husband and wife and ransacked the house. While they were gathering what they wanted they repeatedly threatened to kill the family. The couple were left alone at times and the woman managed to untie herself and untied her husband. They were smart enough not to let the intruders know. When the intruders finally left, the husband chased them and called the police. The intruders were captured. This, you would think, is an amazing end to the story, but it isn't the end. The papers reported the incident and listed every article and it's value that was taken. This family happens to be well to do and the items and cash taken were substantial. Was this necessary? This family now has to worry about other criminals knowing exactly what they have in their home and where they live. In my opinion, the papers have put this family's safety in jeopardy. Shouldn't writers have a responsibility to ensure they are not the cause of further harm to the victims?

The second incident occurred a couple of days ago in my neighborhood. A 9-year-old boy was struck by a truck while running across a very large and busy intersection. While the story is graphic and disturbing, the pictures are worse. The front page shows the boy's body lying on the street in a body bag. The picture on the third page is of a man wiping the blood off the street with the boy's body in view. Are graphic words and especially graphic pictures of a 9-year-old's body and blood necessary to convey the story? The boy's friends and classmates will easily see this story and the pictures. And, I can't imagine how the family would feel if they see the paper – hopefully they never will. Again, shouldn't writers have a responsibility to ensure they are not the cause of further harm to the victims?

So, what's the reason reporters and photographers need to be so graphic and use words and pictures that are disturbing to the point of at times being sickening? I know papers are in the business of selling and it seems more and more it's the shock and gore effect that sells. The question is are the reporters leading readers down this path, or are the readers demanding it? Whichever is the case it is creating a world of desensitized people who need more and more horror and gore to get a reaction. When will it be enough? I'm not saying that writers shouldn't write the news; I'm saying there are many ways to tell a story and maybe the shock and gore should be replaced by compassionate and responsible news writing and reporting.

Just needed to vent.



Nocturnal Intellect said...

Good venting and I absolutely agree that sometimes we are getting a lot more from a story than should be told. No one seems to care about reputation or feelings of the ones involved. I personally would rather read a good story and use my imagination than see all the graphic pictures followed by a lousy story.

Karen and Robyn - Writing for Children said...

Thanks for the input. It was just so outrageous I had to say something. I also posted it to ezinearticles - have to wait a few days for it to be published though.

Shari Lyle-Soffe said...


I absolutely agree with you. Sadly the people who do this will argue tooth and nail that they are not contributing to the desensitising of the public. Movie makers, television bosses, etc. all hold to the same claim of irresponsibility.


Karen and Robyn - Writing for Children said...


I agree. This is a crazy world. I think the real problem is there is little or no consequences attached to one's actions today.


Carma's Window said...

I agree with you too Karen. I do believe journalists who write for the media are usually sensitive but sensationalism sells. The paper buys the photo separate from the journalists sometimes. Unfortunately in these voyeuristic times where privacy is not respected, we will see more and more of this kind of reporting. I think it is a good topic for a book.


Karen and Robyn - Writing for Children said...

Hey, Carma. Thanks for stopping by. I think our culture has taken a slippery slide downhill when it comes to invasion of privacy and decency.

Yvonne Perry said...

That is definitely carrying the "need to report news" too far! Both cases were very insensitive to the families.

Karen and Robyn - Writing for Children said...

Thanks for stopping by, Yvonne and adding to this post.