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Adamant New York Times promises action but refuses to pull down gory picture

By NYABOGA KIAGE January 18th, 2019 2 min read

Editors at the New York Times (NYT) have promised action following accusations of bias in publishing gory pictures from the 14 Riverside Drive attack.

The New York Times however, remained largely unapologetic despite a demand by the Media Council of Kenya and ordinary Kenyans that it apologises and pulls down the gory images.

But in an explainer published on Thursday, Marc Lacey, NYT National editor said the paper would “convene a group of people to come up with clearer guidelines.”

“As a result of the concerns from our readers that this photo raised, we’re going to convene a group of people to come up with clearer guidelines. I am going to be part of that effort,” said Lacey.

Meaghan Looram, the director of photography, said team will draft a guide for editors who are faced with making similar kinds of consequential decisions.


“As part of this process, we will create a set of questions to consider before publishing sensitive images. We must weigh our responsibility as journalists to help our readers see and understand the reality of the world with sensitivity to the victims and their families. We take both of these responsibilities very seriously,” said Looram.

Kenyans have accused the newspaper of employing double standards by publishing bodies of attack victims in Africa, while concealing the same when attacks happen in America.

Lacey said the decision to publish the picture had split the newsroom: “To give you a sense of how difficult these decisions are, there are people in the newsroom who felt in retrospect that we shouldn’t have run the Nairobi photo.”

But in a letter signed by its Standards Associate Managing Editor, Philip B. Corbett, said that their act was prompted by the fact that it was “balancing the need for sensitivity and respect with our mission of showing readers the reality of such events”.


In the letter, Mr Corbett said that NYT was sympathetic to the pain of those that were affected.

“We recognize that coverage of a terrible event like this can be very painful to those affected, and we try always to be sensitive and thoughtful in how we handle both words and images in these situations. We want to be respectful to the victims, their families, and anyone affected,” he said.

“But as journalists, we also believe it is important to give our readers around the world a clear picture of the horror of an attack like this. This often includes showing pictures that are not sensationalized but that give a real sense of the terrible situation,” he added.

MCK had initially written to NYT demanding that NYT apologises or the license issued to Kimiko de Freytas- Tamura is revoked.

However, NYT said that the decision to publish the images was purely made by the reporter or any of their journalists in Nairobi.