by Sebastian Smith
NEW YORK, Dec 4, 2012 (AFP) - A New York Post front page picture of a man about to be killed by an oncoming subway train provoked fury Tuesday from readers left wondering why nobody, particularly the photographer, tried to pull the victim to safety -- and why the tabloid published the image.
Police say the victim was thrown onto the tracks during a fight Monday with a deranged man in a Manhattan subway station. He then staggered to his feet and tried, but failed to get out the way of the train, which killed him -- in full view of a crowd of passengers.
One of those bystanders was a freelance photographer from the Post who managed to take a series of photos, including the one occupying the whole front page Tuesday under the headline: "This man is about to die."
In a video report on the story, the Post appeared to suggest that the picture and two others in a double-page spread inside the newspaper, were just unintentional byproducts of the photographer's rescue attempt.
"Not being strong enough to physically lift the victim himself, the photographer used the only resources available to him and began rapidly flashing his camera to signal the train conductor to stop," the report said.
But readers quickly slammed the Post's photographer and editors for what they saw as a callous attitude to the tragedy.
"Wow! enough time to take a few pictures. Why didn't the person help? How many pictures did they take? 3-4 pictures. And nobody tried to help. Not one person," wrote Joseph Monte on the Post's website.
Nicole Stagg, another reader, wrote: "There aren't many real men in NYC. Everyone is a sheep. This was Baaaaaaaad."
The Atlantic Wire website joined the outcry.
"There's one big question about today's intense cover of the New York Post. Why didn't anyone help him? If there's enough time to capture a dying man's last moments before getting hit by an oncoming train... couldn't the photographer have lent a hand," the Atlantic said.
In the Post, the photographer, R. Umar Abbasi, said he had used his camera principally to warn the approaching train driver.
"I just started running, running, hoping that the driver could see my flash," he said.
But that explanation didn't convince critics on Twitter.
"Claims he was using camera's flash to catch conductor's attention," tweeted Ellen Comisar. "But result seems a tad too well composed."
"This is sickening," tweeted Brian Frederick. "Why on earth would the NY Post put this on their cover? Seriously fcked up."
"Whoever took the picture that's on the cover of the NY Post should be arrested for not helping the dude that got killed," wrote "vodka n lime."
"Please boycott @nypost for putting the final moments of the subway victim killed after being pushed in NYC. It's disgusting," Jennifer Joyce tweeted.
The Post, which lives by its reputation for providing daily shock value, was unapologetic after several hours of the online barrage.
On its own Twitter feed, the Post flagged its controversial story. "Shocking video and pic! Dad pushed to death by madman in Times Square subway station."
As the uproar grew, The New York Times, which styles itself as the paper that runs only the news "that's fit to print," ran an image of the horrific Post front page on its website and invited reader responses.
The debate was more civil than on the insult-laden Post comments section, but opinions were similarly harsh. Several contributors accused the Times of fanning the publicity flames.
"Neither the NY Post or the NYT should have shown this picture, but above all, shame on the photographer. Had he only reached out a hand, this man may have had a chance of survival," one reader wrote. "This is an ethical line that should not have been crossed."
"Sleazy," wrote another. "The demise of journalism is no more prevalent than this. We have replaced news for sensationalism. The Times is just as guilty as the Post, even if it is using the picture for discussion of journalistic integrity."
Police said Tuesday that they were holding a "person of interest" in the alleged crime, but had not yet pressed charges.