Why Yesterday's New York Post Cover Matters To You

Yesterday, the New York Post ran a front page photo of a man about to be struck and killed by an oncoming train. It set the internet on fire and raised a lot of questions about the photographer's role in the man's death. This is a technology issue.

Click here to see an image of the cover. As usual, the New York Times' media columnist David Carr put it particularly well his piece today:

Soon enough, new boundaries will be tested. In an era when most people have a camera in their hand or pocket, mass shootings will be memorialised on mobile phone videos and ubiquitous security cameras will dish up fresh horrors. I'd like to think that the people's right to know will be leavened by the people's right to live in a world where mayhem is not a commodity.

In other words, we're going to see this kind of thing a lot more. I don't have a specific question for you, but this is something we should talk about. [New York Times]



    Could have helped the poor guy get on the damn platform rather than waste time pulling out the camera and snapping a shot.

      So sad when the latter happens more and more often. He died for heaven sake!

      Poor platform design, they need to have enough room under the end of the platform for people to take refuge without getting minced by a train.

      Regardless of who pushed him and who took a photo instead of helping him, there is blood on anyone that had even the slightest bit of input in making the platform.

        I can't comment on if this platform had a place for him to take refuge, however it should be noted that most people's instincts would tell them to climb back up on the platform and is usually the first thing attempted.

      I don't know this story at all, but I imagine that the photographer was probably quite far away, already had his/her camera out for whatever reason, and probably had no ability at all to be able to affect the outcome of what was about to happen.

      Again, I don't know this story at all, in fact I haven't even seen the photo being talked about - but forget the photographer, what was everyone else's excuse who were there at the time?

      I may not agree with this photo getting full exposure in a magazine/paper, but I don't think the photographer should be demonised simply for being there and holding a camera at the time.

      Last edited 06/12/12 1:33 pm

        Why is it that people who start sentences with "I don't know about X BUT..." never seem to listen to their own words? Why would you continue with a thought after stating that?

        Eg. "I'm not a climate scientist BUT..."

          I didn't actually read your reply, but I just wanted to thank you for agreeing with me

            I don't know about sarcasm, but your attempt has clearly failed.

      He was too far away to help. so why not get paid? its his life obviously.

        That's what he said, but the distance he was at should not be too hard to estimate using the EXIF information in the original photograph.

    It's sad he died but thats life. It is only causing a fuss cause of the picture. Too many people die without photos being taken but nobody generally cares. So why let this bother you?

      "That's life"? He was pushed onto the tracks and was not assisted in anyway in getting out of harms way of a fast, heavy piece of machinery. That's not life.

        Its not? what is it then? I agree it sux. there are alot of things that should have and could have been done better. Starting with the design of the platform. but it didn't. thats what life it. a series of decisions that culminate to gether for good or bad.

      I've accept death a long time ago, but watching and taking photos of someone getting hit by a train after being pushed on the tracks is borderline manslaughter, not "life".

      Last edited 06/12/12 11:49 am

        Very hard to judge things, not having been there at the time. I believe it started off with an argument. Maybe he took his camera out to take a picture, then he got thrown onto the track. We don't know. I'm not taking sides, just thinking of possibilities.

      It is life. Life is chaotic and unfair and does not have neat endings.

        Which is not the issue here we are arguing about...

    There is no way to justify what happened. The photographer put his single-minded need to get a sensationalist picture ahead of a mans life. This is a moral issue and I think there would be grounds for arresting the photographer for negligence. What the hell has happened to our humanity..?

      so you feel there should be a good samaratin law? What if in trying to assist the guy on the track the photographer fell down as well?

      Good samaratin laws are great i theory, but they don't work too well in real life. For the same reason Comunisim works great on paper but doesn't work in real life.

        What are you on about?
        Are you seriously saying that there was no obligation on the photographers part to actually help?
        Whilst that may well be a sick legal loophole to jump through, it in no way gives him permission to just stand there and take a photo. As I asked earlier, what happened to humanity. Your attitude is why people don't give a crap anymore.

          Well seeing as the train is very close already, I don't see how the photographer could help if he/she was that far away. Plus, noone should have the obligation to help anyone. It's at their own discretion.

            Pretty sure you just confirmed my view on a lack of humanity these days. I hope next time you drop your wallet, your not being followed by someone who has your attitude towards obligation.

    Here is a quote from Vincent Laforet on the photo in question. Personally, I agree with him, especially when you put it in the context of photojournalists who risk their lives to document issues in areas of war or civil unrest.

    "...Therefore while photographing any disturbing event might be counter to ones human instinct—it can be a necessary act that could potentially prevent it from happening to others in the future."

      Reminds me of the famous film and photograph during the Vietnam war where the little girls runs down the road after they napalmed the village.

      "...Therefore while photographing any disturbing event might be counter to ones human instinct—it can be a necessary act that could potentially prevent it from happening to others in the future."

      What an absolute load of crap, how is his decision to take a photo of this man in any way going to prevent it from happening again? Had he made the decision to put his camera down and try and help he may well have saved the man's life, maybe not, but trying to help and save his life I would have thought was far more important than taking a bloody photo. I'm sure the event was captured on cc TV, so its not as if this photo is the only record of it happening.

      This and other comments about not helping are a sad indictment on society today, what if that was your mother/father/brother/sister/child on the platform, would you still think it fine for someone to stand around and take a photo rather than trying to help?

      I don't care how far away he was, you bloody run to help, not stand around and take a f#$king photo of someone about to be killed.

        Or he could have been killed in the attempt himself. With the train that close, it is more likely that he would have been killed.

        The guy on the tracks loks failry heavily built. Is the camera man strong enough to pull him out in time to save him without being injured himself? For all you know the camera man is built like a toothpick and can't lift anything bigger than a kitten. Or he may have a chronic back injury or any number of things that prevented him from being able to help.

        You seem to think that just because you would be able to help, that everyone could. Would you be this big a wanker if it was a 90 yearold grandmother on holiday doing the tourist thing and just happend to have their camera out taking photos of the wonderful NY subway?

        The truth is, you don't know the circumstances. No one is under any obligation to intercede where their own safety is at risk.

        Let's take this photo as an example. The man has fallen on the tracks and is photographed during the last few seconds of his life. The photo goes viral, everyone sees it and calls for barriers to be placed at the edge of platforms to prevent people from falling down.

        If 10 people are killed a year by falling onto train tracks and the barriers are installed, that's 10 less people getting killed.

        Yes, it's tragic that the man died and that nobody helped him. It would be devastating if that was your own family and nobody helped. But there is always two sides to a story.

          that is the only positive I can see coming from this.
          Reminds me of the reason we built barriers on the West Gate bridge
          A dad threw his daughter over the bridge during a custody battle with his wife, girl died, we put temp. the fences up straight away, now there are new ones all along the bridge...

    I agree with most of what's been said here.
    one man's career is never worth more than another man's life. ever.

      That's very noble and idealistic and false.

    Didn't the photographer claim he was trying to use his flash to signal the train driver that something was wrong?

    I don't buy that explanation, but it shows that he was aware of the criticism that was going to come his way.

    The most famous example is probably the "vulture waiting for the African child to die" photo - the photographer who took that ended up killing himself from memory?

    Far out, none of us were there. How do you know
    a. the photographer wasn't 100m away using a telephoto lens
    b. the photographer isn't a paraplegic in a wheel chair or someone else physically incapable of helping. Also the photo doesn't indicate that there's anyone anywhere at all that could help.
    c. the photographer didn't had a brain snap (brought on by the shocking events they were witnessing) and did something illogical.
    d. the violent person that pushed the victim onto the track didn't threatened the photographer with the same if they didn't photograph the man.
    e. the violent person that pushed the victim onto the track didn't threatened everyone with the same if the tried to help.

    It looks like it only took a few seconds (not minutes) hesitation for the fatal event to unfold.

    Have you ever witnessed a violent event in progress and willingly and unhesitatingly thrown yourself in. Maybe in the movies ordinary people do but not in real life - we freeze.

    For me, the NY Post is scum.

      Given that "The Story" revolves around the photo and it's taker, it's only natural to assume the worst case scenario. Going from the content, the evidence points to a callous disregard for a human life in order to take a sensationalist image. All of which is on a par with how modern ethics are shaping up nowadays. I think the content is sick, no matter what the peripheral conditions are and the photographer should have put helping, above taking a shot of the mans predicament.

        1. What a newspaper reports and what actually happened often do not coincide.
        2. You can sit calmly in front of your monitor and pass judgement but what would you have done in the 2 or 3 seconds if you were there? Most likely freaked out (done nothing) like the rest of us.
        3. Neither you nor I know what really happened.

          " You can sit calmly in front of your monitor and pass judgement but what would you have done in the 2 or 3 seconds if you were there? Most likely freaked out (done nothing) like the rest of us."

          But that's not what he did, he chose to take a photo, had he frozen no one would be having this discussion, it's abhorrent that he chose to prosper rather than help, or do nothing.

            You don't know how he felt or what the situation was really like. Only that a photo was taken. Maybe in a disturbed state of mind the photographer had no idea at all what he was doing and given the chance again he would choose to help. Or maybe in those 2 or 3 seconds the photographer expected/hoped someone would save the man (not having the time to think that it could've been him).

            Don't just judge the way the article wants you to. Wait until you know what really happened.

            I remember reading an article in which a 20 year old hit an old man who subsequently died. I thought bad things about the 20 year old. Then it turns out that when the 20 year old was 10 the "old" man had molested him. A chance encounter 10 years later and all the rage that the 20 year old had bottled up exploded. Still a crime but now a context.

    The law, particularly in the US states that you may be liable if you get involved in a situation, e.g. if you tried to help the man up but lost your grip and he fell and died, you could be up for manslaughter. As a photographer he is protected by the law to take such photos.
    Society has set the standard and made the laws that all must follow.
    If you have a problem with this photo then get of your arse and fulfill your citizens responsibility by writing your governor, local politician to amend such laws.
    Personal belief and morals are in the eye of the individual.

      Exactly. In the US you can be sued if someone breaks in to your house and breaks a leg tripping over your coffee table.

        that is Australia's law as well
        it is called 'duty of care'

          Pretty sure your a bit off the mark there, That only applies for workplaces or driving and other public things. IT does not however cover someone trespassing onto your property and then subsequently injures themselves.

          Its only in the US that that kind of ludicrous nonsense exists.

          Last edited 09/12/12 1:19 pm

    I really want to think that I would have at least tried to help. I can honestly say that my reaction would never have been to take a photo. I'm not the sort of person that has to take photos of everything (or a photo journalist).

    The photographer said he was also trying to warn the train driver with his camera flash. I don't know how realistic this is, but the man who took the photos sounded genuinely horrified by the experience, and i dont think he was just standing there with dollar-signs for eyeballs when he took the photo.

    That really is just str8 wrong. He should of at least tried to help him, even if he didn't have enough time...

    Guys, please read the Times column mentioned. The role of the photographer is one issue, and not the central one. The question that really stands out to me is why the Post felt it was OK to run the photo as a front page story with the headline "This man is about to die".

    As the linked article says, as a photojournalist, taking the picture might have been a reflex to a sudden and shocking situation by someone whose livelihood relies on reacting in exactly that way. Using it as a headline and lead story was a considered, governed process that lead to nothing other than the crass exploitation of a man's death to sell newspapers, with little if any journalistic value. It's far more damning of the editors than the photographer.

    Yeah yeah everyone's got a camera blah blah moral dilemma this ...
    Personally I think you are all missing the point.
    It says a lot in this case, about American society.
    A person sees some one pushed off a platform and onto the tracks but instead of helping the person up and yes there would have been time... This person fishes a mobile phone out of his pocket, unlocks his phone, looks for and selects a camera app, presses on it, frames up the photo also allowing the auto focus to do its thing (and I mention this very specifically as the picture is in perfect focus and depth of field) and then stands there taking photos while this poor man is trying to climb back up probably screaming for help and this person just stands there...
    Even if he used an Digital SLR it would have taken just as long..

    If he got a photo of the victim, I sure hope for his sake that he also got a photo of the perpetrator. If he didn't, then I'd question his motives. I'd also question his excuse of warning the driver by using the flash, wouldn't that just distract him?

    Unfortunately it is becoming more common to record the event or to stand by and be passively involved rather than participating and being part of the solution. Yet, if it came to roles being reversed, all the passive viewers would want someone to act and help out!

    New York Post, part of the News Corp brand, I'm surprised there weren't impact shots.
    That being said as a child I fell off the platform once and had many people come to my aid for which I'm still grateful, but these day I'm sorry to say I don't think that would happen anymore.
    We are being taught by media and social norms these days to be apathetic to other peoples troubles and pain and frankly is disgusting.

    In Australia the photographer would be looking at manslaughter charges. He had a duty of care to go to the aid of that man. Just like if you find someone not breathing you have an obligation to administer CPR until help arrives. I hope they arrest him people need to know that social popularity from taking a shocking photo shouldn't be at the cost of a human life. ITS BASIC HUMANITY PEOPLE!!!

      Wrong. There is no legal obligation to help another person in Australia.

        In some countries like France which is practicing civil law system, however, it is stipulated that one shall be punished by imprisonment if someone “abstains voluntarily from giving such aid to a person in peril that he would have been able to give him without risk to himself or to third persons by his personal action or by calling for help”. [6] Germany in law system there is a provision that also specifies “a citizen is obliged to provide help in case of accident or general danger if necessary”. This law also has an Australian variation. Nice try troll. Heartless [email protected]"

          You kind of brushed over a very important part of that rule there Maniac.

          "without risk to himself"

          There is no way that any court in the world could rule that the photographer would not have been at risk if he had tried to help.

          I notice you have totally ignored the person who pushed the guy on the track. Can I take it from your lack of comment that you are not concerned by his actions?

            From my understanding the guy who pushed him was trying to leave. Plus you sayi didn't allow for risk in my statement but when it happened there was a 22 second window. The train wouldn't have been there yet. They could have saved him. New Yorkers and Americans in general just care about themselves

              There isn't a law that states that we have obligation to help a person, but it is in our best interests to do so. If most of us put in that position would have done nothing due to shock. On the other hand the photographer consciously chose to take a photo instead. On another note, your generalisation of americans is such a cliche stereotypical thing to say.

              Last edited 08/12/12 8:16 pm

              22 Seconds from the guy falling to being killed? I chalenge you to try and react to, and then pull a grown man out of a trench in 22 seconds. Without gettig injured or put into danger yourself.

    As a photographer, I've thought about this many times. In most cases, the photo wins out.

    It's not because I'm heartless (I'm really not!), nor because I have the dollar signs in my eyes, but because I know the profound effect an image can have on you. The first ever Pulitzer prize for spot news photography was entitled "The kiss of life". From Wikipedia:

    His [Rocco Morabito's] 1967 award-winning photo entitled "Kiss of Life" showed a utility worker, J.D. Thompson, suspended on a utility pole and giving mouth to mouth resuscitation to a fellow lineman, Randall G. Champion, who was unconscious and hanging upside down after contacting a high voltage line

    That was a powerful image for me, It was as raw as you could get. The fear of not knowing if your colleague is going to survive, the immediate danger. It really left a lasting impression.

    And I'm sure as a result, new safety measures have been put into place to prevent this from happening again, saving hundreds of lives.

    I feel sad when I realise that someone has died or has been hurt in the photos, but these things happen, and people often stand around, stunned, at the scene of an accident. Your mind can't process it, you're dumbfounded.

    Besides, what's done is done, and I can only hope that the man responsible for pushing Ki-Suk Han is found and charged, and that something positive comes from all of this.

    (Also note, the photographer was several hundred feet away -- way too far away to do anything)

    The time between taking the photo and the train hitting him would be less than a second or so. The fact that he got a well timed shot off was a miracle in itself. If it was a video it would put it in to perspective and those above would have a different comment. You were not there and thus have no idea how it played out and there fore have no right to comment.

    It is what it is. End of story.

    How he was supposed to put the camera down and his bag and cover that distance and some how help the guy off the tracks in a second or too is beyond me. Pretty shallow thinking from what I thought was a pretty smart user base of readers.

    It's funny how no one mentions the train driver. I saw a documentary on this topic a few months ago on SBS. People doing stupid stuff around the tracks and using trains as a way of committing suicide just don't realise the effect they have on the train drivers. Imagine being forced (literally forced, as for trains to stop they need to apply the brakes hundreds of metres away) to kill a number of people per year.

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