Pictures of grieving mother went too far

PUBLISHED: 11:37 02 November 2006 | UPDATED: 11:08 06 May 2010

Do national newspapers handle sensitive issues in the right way?

Do national newspapers handle sensitive issues in the right way?

IT WAS an image which is unfortunately quite common in today s newspapers and on TV - a woman photographed and filmed in a moment of deepest grief. As a journalist, I expect I m supposed to find this acceptable, but as a human being I find it highly unne

IT WAS an image which is unfortunately quite common in today's newspapers and on TV - a woman photographed and filmed in a moment of deepest grief.

As a journalist, I expect I'm supposed to find this acceptable, but as a human being I find it highly unnecessary and intrusive.

The woman was Sharon Wood whose two children died of suspected carbon monoxide poisoning in Corfu last week.

Over the weekend she visited the villa where Christianne, seven, and Robert, six, had died.

As she peered out of the villa and clung on to her husband while she looked at the faulty boiler that is thought to have killed her children, paparazzi and film crews were there to take her picture.

We are so used to seeing images of grief, death and destruction that, in theory there is nothing to set the images of Mrs Wood apart from those of, say, 9/11 or the London bombings last year.

But still, to me, it seems wrong.

I accept that the tragic story of the children's deaths is news and clearly there is a public information and safety issue associated with highlighting the dangers of carbon monoxide.

To report that Mrs Wood has visited the site is a further update to the story and in principle, fair enough.

But to photograph someone at that moment, the moment of being confronted with the scene of their children's death, is to capture a person at their very lowest ebb.

How can this be necessary?

In Monday's Sun, there was not one but three pictures of the grieving mother.

Even if we accept that a picture is needed to illustrate the story, three is excessive by anyone's standards.

The Press Complaints Commission's code of practice, supposedly a document to which newspaper and periodical editors sign up, says that in cases involving grief or shock "publication must be handled sensitively".

Although all of the national papers which ran the story were quick to acknowledge the sadness of the situation, I hardly think that publishing these photographs qualifies as a sensitive handling of the issue.

A sensitive approach would have involved leaving the poor woman alone to deal with the enormity of her grief, rather than adding to her burden by making her feel she has to hide from the cameras.

Now the irony of all this is that I do, of course, work for a newspaper.

Possibly my stance means that I'm not really cut out for this industry, or possibly it means that I'm a bit more sensitive than my national colleagues.

I am sure that The Comet does not always make everybody happy with stories it publishes, as we are in the business of getting to the heart of local issues rather than pleasing all of the area's many thousands of residents.

But I would hope that, as a paper, we keep the right side of the line between reporting current events and intruding in moments of raw, horrific grief.

It's just a shame the same can't be said for some of the national papers.

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