Ryan at The Dead Parrot Society links to a report on a survey of journalists and readers he worked on that asked its respondents to decide whether they would publish certain graphic news photos. He writes that journalists and readers all focused on similar concerns when making the decision, but that journalists were 10% to 15% more likely to publish than were readers. This makes sense to me, and as he quotes:
"It's probably safe to say that journalists as a group are more likely to ground their moral decisions in duty," [said Kelly McBride of the Poynter Institute.] "They believe it is their duty to inform. In the wider public arena, a greater portion of people are going to ground their moral decisions in care. That means they would be concerned about harming the people in the photos, as well as the audience who might view the photo."
According to the survey, journalists are wary of becoming mouthpieces for "terrorist propaganda" -- yet as Wretchard at Belmont Club has noted, they often appear to do just that.
So what's the right answer? Frankly, I wouldn't care what images the media chose to show as long as they made it clear that they're on our side and want America to achieve complete and total victory. The only reason there's worry about helping the terrorists is because the media refuses to take the side of the good guys. That doesn't mean they should be issuing American propaganda or lies, but they also shouldn't let any of their viewers doubt where their loyalties lie: to their country, or merely to their profession?
The problem is similar to that faced by many international "human rights" groups. They don't get anywhere publishing articles about the evil of terrorists and tyrannical regimes, because everyone knows. Kim Jong Il starves his people and keeps hundreds of thousands in concentration camps? Big deal. Uday Hussein snatches girls off the street to rape and murder them? Who cares. China controls its population using forced abortions? Whatever. American soldiers strip their prisoners naked and take pictures? Stop the presses!