Not long ago I woke up in the middle of the night, television on, sound muted. A film was on HBO, “House of 1000 Corpses”, from 2003. The plot, as laid out on IMDb: “Two teenage couples traveling across the backwoods of Texas searching for urban legends of serial killers end up as prisoners of a bizarre and sadistic backwater family of serial killers.”
What ensued was an uninterrupted barrage of violence, sadism, torture, agony, blood and twisted limbs. It was so off the chart there could be no chart. Did I turn the channel? No. I waited to see how each scene would outdo the last in psychosis. Which is what director Rob Zombie intended, no doubt. Zombie was an awful musician who transitioned seamlessly to tasteless film director.
The point is that graphic content is magnetic, like it or not. You don’t have to be Rob Zombie to go for it. News media face the same temptation, and risk, with graphic content. It can grab viewers, or repulse them, or both. It might be necessary to tell a story in accurate context. Or it might drag the story out of context.