Panel: Death and the Social Web

September 21, 2015
Columbia Journalism School
2950 Broadway
New York, NY, 10026, United States

This year we’ve seen a number of people die on our screens, from the police officer Ahmed Merabet shot in Paris after the Charlie Hebdo attacks, to Walter Scott shot in the back as he ran from police in Charleston, to Alison Parker and Adam Ward shot live on air. We’ve seen CCTV footage of a woman ‘sucked’ into a faulty escalator in China, a live Periscope stream of the immediate aftermath of the Bangkok bombing, and images of refugee children washed onto Libyan beaches.  

This panel discussion examined the issues raised by death on the social web. Should audiences be protected from these images? Does responsibility differ for news organizations versus the social platforms? Are journalists and audiences becoming desensitized? What can we learn from history about similar ‘moment of death’ images? How does culture play into what is acceptable or not?


The panel was moderated by Claire Wardle of the Tow Center for Digital Journalism. Panelists included:

Sam Gregory
Program Director, Witness 

Louise Roug
Global News Editor, Mashable 

Bruce Shapiro
Executive Director, Dart Center for Journalism and Trauma
Senior Executive Director of Professional Programs, Columbia Journalism School

Barbie Zelizer
Raymond Williams Professor of Communication
Director, Scholars Program in Culture and Communication
Annenberg School for Communication, University of Pennsylvania