Death – unedited, raw and disturbing captured on camera

Death – captured on video – in June 6th’s Los Angeles Times Death of fugitive porn actor captured in disturbing video is a short metro (L.A. Now) item on the death of a porn actor named Stephen Clancy Hill, who was wanted in connection with a rampage that left two others dead.  In all, not a terribly monumental story when compared with carnage that dots the worldscape daily, except that this story features video of the actual moment of Hill’s death captured and shown as a link from KTLA Channel 5.

Is this news worthy?  And why have the editors determined that watching a raw tape of his body tumbling off a cliff, ricocheting and bouncing from is something that adds to our understanding or appreciation of the death?

In the final act of Tom Stoppard’s “Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead”, Guildenstern wonders aloud if the concept of death can be portrayed on a stage. It is not a large leap to extend this question to citizen journalism and modern media.  Somewhat at an emotional loss he asks, “No…no…not for us, not like that. Dying is not romantic, and death is not a game which will soon be over…Death is not anything…Death is not…It’s the absence of presence, nothing more…the endless time of never coming back…a gap you can’t see, and when the wind blows through it, it makes no sound.”

For the editors of the Los Angeles Times the death of this man makes a great deal of disturbing visual noise.

Author: Peter Shaplen Productions

More than four decades of experience as a journalist, producer, reporter, writer and professor of news, corporate production, crisis management.

3 thoughts on “Death – unedited, raw and disturbing captured on camera”

  1. As a former news shooter I would have shot the fall and taken it back to the news director to make the final call to “air” or “not air” the footage. That decision is not mine. I am doing my job as a photojournalist to capture the “news” making event be it a house fire, plane crash, oil spill or election coverage. I have shot many things that didn’t make the air because they were to graphic. For instance, two people having sexual intercourse in public. That never made the air. But someone committing suicide does? Television is not radio. It requires moving pictures. The argument is when you get back to the station. Do you air the footage or not? Is it to graphic for dinner time? Would children watching be affected? Those were the old questions. I think the line was crossed in 1987 with the “live” airing of convicted politician Budd Dwyer committing suicide in Pennsylvania while giving a press conference. Being that it was a “live shot”, no one had control over the actions he took in that moment. Now it seems that anything goes to air. The more over the top the higher the ratings. The decision to air this “death by falling” footage was most likely based on two things. First, he was wanted in connection for the deaths of two fellow workers. Secondly, he was in an industry that sells sex. (which happens to be based in the San Fernando valley area) Tabloid? Or solid news journalism? What if this story happened in the midwest instead of West Hills, CA? Would the news director air this footage to his viewing audience in Nebraska even if the shooter videotaped it? Or what if it was a woman who just slipped off a clif and fell to her death? Is it newsworthy just because you happened to videotape it?
    In Seattle where I live, we have bridge jumpers all the time who decide to end their life by leaping. I have never seen footage on local television of such a horrific moment. I hope I never do.

  2. It is unacceptable to show footage of a death. What has happened to standards? Showing that video even a decade ago would have gotten people fired.

  3. Totally agree with Stan.

    Sheesh, I’ve shot in brothels and its made air.

    Our job as photojournalists is to cover the news. We shoot it, good or bad, then its up to the producers and newsroom whether or not to air.

    I remember way back in the 70’s. KGO ran a promo right before air. Penis found on railroad tracks, news is on at 6. This is not a new debate.

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