Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Staged Photojournalism

Forbes reports on the controversy surrounding apparently staged photos of dead children after the recent Qana bombing. Comments bolded and in brackets are mine.
The AP said information [What information? Why don't you tell us?] from its photo editors showed the events were not staged, and that the time stamps could be misleading for several reasons, including that web sites can use such stamps to show when pictures are posted, not taken. [Which falls short of saying that the time stamps are misleading in this instance.] An AFP executive said he was stunned to be questioned about it. [How dare anyone question the media elete!] Reuters, in a statement, said it categorically rejects any such suggestion. [Because?]

"It's hard to imagine how someone sitting in an air-conditioned office or broadcast studio many thousands of miles from the scene can decide what occurred on the ground with any degree of accuracy," said Kathleen Carroll, AP's senior vice president and executive editor.[Yes, it is hard to imagine how Ms. Carroll, sitting in her air-conditioned office can decide the photos were not staged.]

Carroll said in addition to personally speaking with photo editors, "I also know from 30 years of experience in this business that you can't get competitive journalists to participate in the kind of (staging) experience that is being described."[So, what kind of photo staging can you get competitive journalists to engage in?]

Photographers are experienced in recognizing when someone is trying to stage something for their benefit, she said. [Yet, they need to picture to make a deadline, so they shoot anyway?]

"Do you really think these people would risk their lives under Israeli shelling to set up a digging ceremony for dead Lebanese kids?" asked Patrick Baz, Mideast photo director for AFP. [Yes.] "I'm totally stunned by first the question, and I can't imagine that somebody would think something like that would have happened." [Another "How dare anyone question...."]

The AP had three different photographers there who weren't always aware of what the others were doing, and filed their images to editors separately, said Santiago Lyon, director of photography. [Increasing the likelihood that they were duped by staged pictures, I guess.]

There are also several reasons not to draw conclusions from time stamps, Lyon said. Following a news event like this, the AP does not distribute pictures sequentially; photos are moved based on news value and how quickly they are available for an editor to transmit. [Someone delayed sending photos of the number one news story of the day? Are we supposed to believe that?]

The AP indicates to its members when they are sent on the wire, and member Web sites sometimes use a different time stamp to show when they are posted.
So, we eagerly await the response of the news media to the outside offer to examine the timestamps. Of course, none of this explains the other anomolies, such as changes of clothes by Mr. Green Helmet between pictures, or the fact that Green Helmet did the same display of bodies to photographers in the 1996 attacks.

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