We should think twice before we post photos online - Argus Friday 28th August 2015

Posted Monday 21st September 2015   By Ericka Waller

IT SEEMS to me that when life is looked at through a lens, it is no longer real life. People seem to forget that they are filming actual events and actual people. Twenty-thousand people turned their cameras on to capture the Hawker Hunter’s acrobatic display, but very few stopped filming when it became obvious the plane was in trouble. Photos of burning cars and mangled motorbikes, items that would change people’s lives as they recognised them as belonging to their loved ones, were spewed across social media within seconds, well before anyone could have been forewarned at what they were about to see.

While on one hand having so much footage of the disaster will help forensics and experts work out what happened to the plane, it will be of little comfort to the families and friends of people who have to watch it time and time again on the news and on Facebook.

One of the first and most iconic photos to emerge of the crash, was that of a Daimler limo. Various papers speculated about its state ‘its roof ripped off’, ‘sheared off’, ‘scorched’, ‘engulfed in a fireball’, ‘hit by a jet’.

Imagine seeing those photos, reading those descriptions and knowing exactly who was inside that car?

Imagine trying to picture the fate of a friend based on the above captions.

I do not have to imagine it, because that is what I and many others had to do on Saturday. Ridiculously, the conflicting sensationalism of the car gave me hope.

No one seemed to know what had actually happened so maybe they were all wrong. More than this though, the plane crashing on to the road was not enough for the media. Papers had to add to the horror by giving the suggestion that a wedding car, perhaps full of a bride and her maids, were also in the crash.

A national paper crassly complimented a Twitter user on their photo of the plane on fire and asked if they could ‘use the great pic’.

And what of the photo clearly showing a group of spectators in the direct line of the jet, their faces recognisable? We still do not know their fate, but some of us may know their names. I have been ashamed to be a journalist the past few days.

I was 20 when 9/11 happened. I remember where I was, and the announcement coming through, but I also remember not equating the figures with people. They were more like ants. I could not comprehend it. I could not connect with it.

There is a photo of a man jumping from the top floor: The Falling Man. It is only now that I think of the family who recognised that man in the photo, as one of their own.

I am one of millions of people who have been affected by a tragic event but it’s only now I can feel all the other tragedies as real. I am ashamed of myself. I like to think that before the air crash, I would not have filmed the Hawker Hunter coming down. I know for sure I never would now.

Social media has thrown contempt of court out the window and now it seems to be taking on the NUJ code of conduct, which states, amongst other rules that a journalist will ‘Do nothing to intrude into anybody’s private life, grief or distress unless justified by overriding consideration of the public interest’.

Why is it in the public’s interest to see a graphic image of cars burned out or being covered in tarpaulin?

To know an aircraft, flying in excess of 200 miles an hour crashed on a busy bypass is enough news. It doesn’t need photos to illustrate the carnage. Photos taken before, but released after loved ones and friends have been informed is one thing.

To be the informer to those loved ones with an amateur video is quite another. The people who were tragically killed deserve dignity. The family of the victims deserve privacy, respect and empathy.

The Air Accident Investigation Branch (AAIB) will study the evidence of the crash and learn what happened to the plane.

But what can we, the public, learn about the evidence we amassed from this disaster?

Perhaps that it caused more pain than needed. Perhaps that we should leave it to the professionals and their codes of conduct to break the heart-breaking news.

Cheap jibes on Twitter about insurance policies and a local made famous with his infamous request for a ticket refund. Much like a fireball ourselves, we have scorched the world with our play-by-play account of the Shoreham air crash.

In the words of our wonderful Maurice ‘live life to the full’. Let’s learn from that and live in front of the camera, not behind it, and may we all think twice before posting pictures and videos online.

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