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An ethics case study: A photo that had to be used

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  1. Situational definition.
  2. Analysis of the situation.
  3. External factors.
  4. Groups affected.
  5. Ethical theories.
  6. Decision.

On September 14, 1989 a man entered a printing company named Standard Gravure and killed nine people, including himself. The shooting spree in Louisville, Kentucky was covered by the Louisville Courier-Journal who decided to include in the front page story, a photo of one of the deceased victims. The front page photo had the victim on his back with his face clearly visible for all readers to see. The killer was a former employee on disability leave named Joseph Wesbecker who was being medicated for depression. He entered the printing press company with an AK-47 assault rifle and within 30 minutes he had killed eight and injured 12 before taking his own life.

[...] It showed the position that the man died in and although it was considered by some to be graphic, it gave the readers a face that they would possibly associate with the negative effects of gun violence. The family and friends though, were affected greatly by the picture and even filed a lawsuit claiming mental harm and invasion of privacy. They were affected by the publishing of their loved one's murdered body when he had no possible way of denying that his photograph be taken. [...]

[...] After the photo was used, Hawpe published articles making it clear to the public the reasons why the paper chose such an action. Some positive feedback followed that included the widow of another man killed in the incident who lent her support to the paper through a personally delivered letter. The widow, Sarah Wible, wrote: would want people to remember that my husband died violently- senselessly- and I don't want anyone to forget it. (Hughes p. Hawpe was questioned about whether he would have printed the photo again considering the public's reaction. [...]

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