Outrage over New York Post front page showing man about to be killed by Subway train
Picture shows a man struggling to get off the tracks after being pushed by an attacker
Nikhil Kumar is The Independent's New York correspondent. He was formerly assistant editor on the foreign desk and has also done a variety of jobs on the city desk, where he wrote about markets, commodities and other business and economics topics.
Wednesday 05 December 2012
Imagine the scene. A train is pulling into a busy New York subway station near Times Square. On the platform is the usual big city jumble of commuters and wide-eyed tourists. But in a horrific departure from the norm, there is a man on the track, moments away from certain death. What do you do?
If you're R Umar Abbasi, a freelance photographer for the New York Post who was on the mid-town platform as such a scene unfolded on Monday, you wield your camera.
"I had my camera up. It wasn't even set to the right settings and I just kept shooting and flashing, hoping the train driver would see something and be able to stop," Mr Abbasi said, recounting the tragic event.
Right settings or not, Mr Abbasi managed to capture a clear image of Ki-Suck Han, the man on the platform. Moments later, Mr Han was fatally run over by a Q-Train. And the next day, Mr Abbasi's newspaper published an oversized record of the scene on its front page, prompting questions about the rights and wrongs of, first, capturing such an image and, once the die has been cast, publishing it with a bombastic headline.
Today, police in New York arrested and charged Naeem Davis, a 30-year-old homeless man who had been taken in for questioning on Tuesday, for the death of Mr Han. Mr Davis , who was reported to have several prior arrests on his record, was detained on a charge of second degree murder after police tracked him down based on leads from a security video and he is said to have implicated himself in the death of Mr Han, 58, during questioning.
Meanwhile, questions were being asked about the New York Post's decision to publish the image of the scene with the headline: "DOOMED". A subheading above said: "Pushed on the track, this man is about to die".
David Carr, the long-standing media commentator at the New York Times, couldn't have been clearer on where he stood. "The treatment of the photo was driven by a moral and commercial calculus that was sickening to behold," he wrote in a blog post yesterday.
At ProPublica, the investigative journalism non-profit organisation, reporter Charles Ornstein tweeted that the cover image "crosses the line". "A pic of a man pushed onto a subway track right before he is struck and killed. Grim," he said in what was one of many messages critiquing the image posted by users on the micro-blogging website.
The photographer, Mr Abbasi, also faced criticism despite his defence that he was using the camera to alert the subway driver. In a piece for the Post, he wrote: "The victim was so far away from me, I was already too far away to reach him when I started running. The train hit the man before I could get to him, and nobody closer tried to pull him out."
Mr Abbasi added: "I have to say I was surprised at the anger over the pictures... But I can't let the armchair critics bother me. They were not there. They have no idea how very quickly it happened... People think I had time to set the camera and take photos, and that isn't the case. I just ran toward that train."
John Cook, at US online blog network Gawker Media, sounded a note of scepticism about the account, saying it was "amazing" that Mr Abbasi "took a focused composed pic" of Mr Han "even [though] he says he was just using [the] flash to warn."
But Vincent Laforet, a Pulitzer Prize-winning photographer, said he was taking Mr Abassi's explanation at face value. "If he felt he could not physically make it to the man... firing his flash to get the operator's attention may have been his only recourse," he told Gawker Media.
Moreover, he made the case that recording disturbing events, in instances where intervention is not possible, "can be a necessary act that could potentially prevent it from happening to others in the future".
He added: "In this particular case, it appears that little could have been done to save this man in time."
A representative for the New York Post did not immediately respond to a request for comment today.
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