Are our courts in tune with society’s reality?

I ask the above question based on a comment made by Court of Queen’s Bench Justice Colleen Suche in her recent sentencing decision for killer Daniel Peterson.

I ask you consider it carefully:

Although it is trite in legal terms to say that a sentence does not speak to the value of a life, this is not always understood by the public, and for families often difficult to accept.  Nothing will bring James Cruickshank back, nothing can remedy the harm that has been done by the taking of his life, and shattering the lives of his family.  However, the law does not seek revenge:  the notion of an eye for an eye or a tooth for a tooth is not part of our society.  Rather, the law seeks retribution; that is, an objective, measured determination of an appropriate punishment which properly reflects the moral culpability of an offender, having regard to his intentional risk taking, the consequential harm caused by his behaviour, and the normative character of the behaviour. (Full decision is here)

After reading the above, I now ask you to consider the comments left on this story involving a teen who viciously robbed a man and left him essentially for dead in a back lane. It’s just one in a long list of stories where – anonymously, anyways — people appear to be thirsting for vengeance as a response to violent crime.

It’s pretty evident that Suche’s assessment conflicts with a significant sector of public sentiment, as right or wrong the ‘hang ’em high’ crowd may or may not be.

I make no personal judgement on Suche’s statement. I’m just noting it’s stuck in my head since reading it earlier today.

Philosophically speaking, is the “our society” Suche referring to the ideal one we’d all like to see?  Or is it a mirage?

Just asking.

Journalism’s coming ethical dilemma

(James Turner/Winnipeg Free Press/The Canadian Press)

There’s a technological shift in optics about to hit the consumer market that poses a problem for journalists — notably ones who make their livings by staring through viewfinders.

Lytro’s ‘living image’ cameras, essentially, capture light field data meaning the need to focus one’s camera lens on something and click the shutter at the exact right moment are no longer prerequisites for photographers.

Great photojournalists are schooled and often masters in the art of the ‘decisive moment‘ — meaning the images they bring back to the newsroom from the field should encapsulate the essence of the story or subject as they saw it right then and there.

In that single blink of the eye. Truth.

Image out of focus? You missed the shot. Too bad. See image left.

Focused on the wrong thing at the wrong time? You missed the shot. Again, too bad.

You can read more about the history of Lytro’s development here, and get a feel for how the technology works.

I readily admit it’s pretty cool.

The National Press Photographer’s Association fairly clearly lays out the ethical guidelines of the photojournalist’s job, considered one of the toughest yet most rewarding in all of the field.

I point out two specifically:

  • Editing should maintain the integrity of the photographic images’ content and context. Do not manipulate images or add or alter sound in any way that can mislead viewers or misrepresent subjects. 


  • Respect the integrity of the photographic moment.

But what Lytro’s offerings do is allow the after-the-fact correction of focusing errors or mistaken focus selection.

Greyhound killer Vince Li leaves the Portage la Prairie courthouse. (James Turner/Winnipeg Free Press/The Canadian Press)

Suddenly, the seemingly botched shot above can be transformed into a usable, newsworthy image (see left).

I blurred the first photo intentionally to prove this point.

In reality, the Lytro would at least have one area of focus.

But was it the right one?

In my view, it would be unethical to file a news photo that was ‘fixed’ after the fact.

But the relative cheapness of the Lytro, along with its seemingly fool-proof image capture system means, I suspect, photo editors will soon be having to make serious judgment calls.

Not just with regards to paid photogs’ use of the technology, but also in pictures submitted by the public of newsworthy events.