Stephen Lepitak

A blog from The Drum's editor, Stephen Lepitak, covering reaction to events in media, social media, marketing, advertising and communications in general.

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British press in rare unison - don't be distracted by the media ethics debate over shocking refugee front page images this morning

This morning's newspapers largely carry one of the most shocking images to make front pages in living memory - the image of a rescue worker discovering the body of a drowned boy washed up on the beach of a Turkish resort. 

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The images are literally devastating to see, made all the worse knowing that this child did not die alone. Five children died in total when their boat of 12 people capsized. They were among many who have now perished attempting to reach the shores of Europe, knowing they are unwelcome, but still so desperate they see it worth the risk to their lives. 

When the first glimpses of the newspapers were released, reaction was against the media as usual, quickly questioning privacy and ethics, but anyone who allows themselves to get drawn into that debate is missing the bigger picture and it seems the media has now generated a groundswell of opinion as time wore on - Europe must act. 

Arguing that newspapers shouldn't place news worthy moments on their front pages is a discussion for another day, long dwelled upon after last week's shooting in Virginia. What is important this morning is that these pictures have been published to provoke reaction from readers and - ultimately - Europe's politicians. 

"Our decision to publish pictures of this tragic child was not made easily. Some will feel we have overstepped the mark of common decency; a few will claim we have put emotion above rational debate. But the fact is this: abject people are dying and they need our help. If we cannot see that, then we have no right to look away from the consequences of inaction," explained the Independent this morning as it promoted a petition it is running online. 

Rarely do we all in media unite with a common message, however it seems that this morning is one such moment, and with the circumstances that these people face in fleeing Libya, desperate for safety for their children never mind themselves, Britain has woken up to the problem. 

Cameron cannot fail but react now. And that, largely, is due to the reaction of the press this morning. Albeit far too late a reaction to save many. 

Let's see what happens next. 
 

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