By the Way

This is why I produced a live video from a wreck in Biloxi

Many people reacted negatively to the live stream on the Sun Herald Facebook page of an accident on Pass Road in Biloxi.

“Unprofessional and disrespectful,” said one reader.

“A new low for the Sun Herald. Very Inappropriate,” said another.

The criticisms are taken to heart.

We have always walked a delicate line when reporting on such events, and that line has become thinner in the modern age of communication.

In just a few years we have moved from covering such events with photos and words that appeared in the next day’s paper to having the ability to stream it live.

We do it for several reasons. Number one is that people want to see it.

There was a crowd of people gathered around the wreck scene, none of whom had any involvement. Many of those people were also taking photos and video with their phones. I suspect I was not the only one with a live Facebook stream going.

Photojournalism exists to show people what they can not be there to witness. It may be for entertainment, such as sports, or to show people examples of something wrong that has occurred. I hope that people can learn about life through my photographs, and hopefully find a way to improve the wold we live in.

In the case of this wreck, and any other similar event, my hope is that people will take two things from seeing such images.

First, please drive carefully. My father died in a car accident. My daughter was recently involved in an accident that could have left the other driver dead, and had the angle of impact been different, my daughter could have been seriously injured or killed.

The last place I want to be is at the scene of an accident, or the pedestrian hit by a train last week. People want to know what happened and we’re in the business of telling you what happened.

The second thing I hope to show in images from such scenes is the heroic work done by first responders at the scene. These men and women don’t often get the credit they deserve. As I watched them work, I was impressed by their quiet efficiency.

There were other criticisms that by posting the video live, we were running the risk of having family members find out before they could be notified by officials.

Had this been a fatal accident, we would have handled it differently. We would not have gone live. I once covered a fatal accident in D’Iberville involving a unique car. Police asked me not to post a photo of the car because it would easily identify the driver. We complied.

I do know that if my loved one was involved in an accident, I would want to know as quickly as possible, regardless of the source. There were many other people there posting photos and video at the scene. If a family member didn’t find out about the accident from the Sun Herald, they may well have learned about it from another source.

Several others complained about the people involved not giving consent. This is a legal issue, well established by the Constitution and the courts. If something happens in a public place, there is no restriction on taking photographs.

I’m sure we can all remember watching as events unfolded on live television on 9/11. We watched because we wanted to know what was going on, because we needed to know what was going on. That is what journalists do. We keep you informed as best we can.

This wreck was no 9/11, but based on the fact that more than seven thousand people have watched it, clearly there is a desire for such reporting.

John Fitzhugh: 228-896-2193, @JFitzhughPhoto