Here is one of those new ethical questions that arise in the digital age: Should a paper that won't print photos refer readers to them at another site online?
The case in question is a story in this morning's The State newspaper about four killings during Labor Day weekend (we can debate later the relative hyperbole of this breathless lede: Columbia endured a bloody Labor Day weekend, with the number of murder victims this year doubling in a grisly 27-hour span.)
The story says police want to talk to several men seen at a gas station where a middle-school student was shot:
Police released a security camera photo of several young men in what appears to be an argument at the Gaz-Bah station at the intersection of Farrow and Wilkes roads. They also released a picture of a silver Pontiac Grand Am.So is the paper doing the public a service by referring people to the police site where they can view a picture the paper finds improper to actually print in its pages or put online? After all, isn't that what we've been harping on all these recent years -- link, link, link (although the paper did not include a live link in the story online, just the referral as you see it).
Crisp and McCants described the young men in the photo as “persons of interest” and say they might have driven or ridden in the car.
The State newspaper has not pulished the picture of the young men because they have not been identified as suspects. It can be viewed at the department’s Web site, columbiapd.com.
“Our focus is on everyone in that picture,” McCants said. “We believe they may have information that could be helpful to our investigation.”
Or is it a case of being editorially milquetoast, ethically impaired or worse? The law calls doing such things being an accessory. Are we accessories when we handle things this way?
Does it matter that the paper didn't make it easy to get to the link and then provided a general link that led only to the home page and not to the news release buried in the site with the photos (link to the one in question). The State did publish a second photo, of the car only, that police are interested in.
Not sure I have answers here, but lots of questions. Please share your thoughts and comments.