PublicSource commits to
making thoughtful choices
on triggering imagery

By Halle Stockton

Aug. 2, 2018

Part of the PublicSource series

The Fix

Stories about the opioid epidemic
in the Pittsburgh region.
About this series.

Earlier this year, TIME magazine released a special issue chock full of photos by James Nachtwey with the call to “See inside the worst opioid addiction crisis in U.S. history.” Online, it came with an eight-word advisory that the content could be disturbing — after already displaying a photo of a man injecting himself with drugs and another man writhing on the ground.

While the TIME team certainly had its fair share of ethical decisions to make on deciding what made a photo too graphic and what could be considered exploitative, their published work appears to follow the thinking that you have to shock the American public into recognizing that we are in crisis.

At PublicSource, we agree that it’s important for the region to understand how serious the opioid epidemic is. But not at the cost of our readers and people in the Pittsburgh area who are struggling with addiction or have family members and friends affected by the disease.

One of the age-old tenets of journalism is to mitigate harm. As part of the Pittsburgh community, we take that responsibility seriously. We have engaged in many discussions internally and with our readers, like social worker Traci Day, about graphic and triggering imagery. These talks have led us to make the following commitment: As with all of our journalism, we will remain focused on the lives of the people we talk to, not just what they have done or are doing, but who they are, what hopes and success they have and how they view their challenges.

When we first published The Fix project, we included an image of a person holding drug paraphernalia out in her hands. It was flanked by images of people we’ve profiled in the series. At first, we thought it would help better communicate what the project is about to our readers. We have since removed that image and we are committed to not publishing images of that sort again.

We made this decision not to water down our content or be politically correct. We made this decision because we care about what our journalism does to our neighbors after we publish.

If you have any questions or comments, please reach out to PublicSource Managing Editor Halle Stockton at or at 412-515-0065.

Stories in this series