Sun-Sentinel and Herald Approach Rihanna Photo With Different Levels of Dignity

Categories: Media Watch
This morning my RSS reader was dominated by the media ethics debate sparked by the leak a picture depicting pop singer Rihanna's bruised and battered face. Here's a snippet I happen to agree with from Salon blogger Tracy Clark-Flory:

"Despite the fact that the photo is so widely available, I can't bring myself to even link to it, because it seems like such a sickening violation of Rihanna's privacy. I realize that it seems a quaint thing to say in an age when the general public feels entitled to see stars' every wart, wrinkle and sex tape -- but this celebrity was beaten. If the photo is authentic, it's evidence of the crime allegedly committed against her. It's a violation against someone who has already been violated. Worse yet, it announces that female celebrities should avoid pressing charges in cases of domestic violence -- maybe even rape -- lest they want to share their bloodied face with the world."
I didn't even think that there would be any local angle to it, but alas The Herald has had the photo up for ten hours. A fact I realized after noticing a link on their homepage. The photo is, at the moment, posted as the main art on the site's people section. The accompanying article is weak, and not worth reading. Other outlets who posted it at least tried to justify it with a decent story. I'm guessing The Herald just wanted in on some page views. Which seemed to work, because according to the Herald's "Most Popular" widget, it's currently the second most viewed story on the site.

The Sun-Sentinel also carried the news as well by picking up the AP report, and posting a small thumbnail with "WARNING: Graphic Content," which at least shows a bit of restraint. Though, I don't visit their website as often as the Heralds, so perhaps it could have been played up bigger earlier.

In any event, The Sentinel has the following reader poll on its front page:

"Have the media gone too far? A photo that appears to be singer Rihanna's face with bruises, scratches and swelling after an alleged attack by boyfriend Chris Brown was posted by the celebrity Web site TMZ -- and then recirculated by media outlets across the country (including the Sun Sentinel). Do you think media outlets should distribute this photo?"

67.2% responded with "No, abuse victims should not be subject to this, regardless of celebrity status."
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