Photojournalism professionals’ ethical reasoning around the images of death on a global, national and local level


The paper explores the practices of news image selection on images of death at a global picture agency (Thomson Reuters), national picture agency (STT-Lehtikuva, Finland) and a local news magazine (Suomen Kuvalehti, Finland). The study is based on ethnographic observations and interviews at three organizations that each represent a connected step in the complex, international news image circulation process. Further, the organizations form an example of a chain of filters, through which most of the news images produced for the global market have to pass before being published. These filters are scrutinized through empirical case studies that concern the professionals’ ethical reasoning around images of violence and death. This research contributes to the understanding of the differences and similarities between media organizations as filters and sheds light on their role in shaping the visual coverage of the news media. The study concludes that all the organizations share a conception of journalism ethics on an ideal level, but in practice, the construction of ethics varies significantly according to the context. A mixture of journalism’s self-regulation, business logic and national legislation create differences to the image selection practices. It is argued that the global image market is highly influenced by the local needs.