Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Not getting the picture...

The pictures of war are an integral part of the storytelling of these great conflicts. And in a democratic society, people have a right to see these images and newspapers have an obligation to show readers both the good and bad that combat produces. That's because the cost of war — though borne most heavily by those who are killed and their grieving relatives — is exacted from all of us. We all have a right to know, and visualize, the ultimate price that some of the men and women America sends into battle are forced to pay.

By allowing the Pentagon to establish the rules for photographing the most telling evidence of the human cost of war, news organizations have abdicated a significant part of their reporting duty to those who manage America's war machine.

The nation's news media are not as focused on defending their "right to bear witness to the range of experiences that come out of the horror of war" because they are more concerned with their own survival, says Kenneth Irby, leader of the Visual Journalism Group at the Poynter Institute, a journalism think tank in St. Petersburg, Fla.

But reporting is the most important part of a newspaper's franchise. The decision on whether, and how, to portray a war's greatest victims should be made by the journalists not the military.
Sure...welcome to Utopia, where every journalist is the epitome of upstanding, non-bias honesty.

Shall we discuss the ability of wire photogs having unprecedented access to terrorist slayings in advance of them occurring? Should we discuss the "paper of record" releasing State secrets like they are Wal-mart inserts...or would you just like to do a full 180 and discuss how today's President tossed journalists off his campaign plane when they wrote a critical analysis of his rhetoric. Your expert in Visual Journalism seems to think that the nation's news media is more concerned about their own survival.

Praising the current administration on their compromise in allowing the photography of military coffins is pure hypocrisy when you consider the NY Post and Washington Times getting extricated from the Obama campaign entourage due to actual examination of his promises. Where was the outrage in the general media then?

One of the comments to this DeWayne Wickham's USA Today blog post provides an even better example of alterior motives on display:

That rule came into being because of press cheap shots after the raid on Panama (1989). The network news person was interviewing President Bush on the phone. They were asking the President how he thought progress is, and he said, "better than we expected". They gave him more opportunities to say how well things were going. While they were doing that, they had a split-screen to show coffins being loaded onto a transport plane. They set it up for obvious reasons.
There seems to be a disconnect for these "journalists." The newspapers are not failing (in flying colors) just because of the internet. They are failing because they are not trusted as a news service. Opinion seeps into hard news pieces. Editors spike stories detrimental to their own ideology. They act as managers, when they indeed are servants.



You know, I would be totally incompetent if I didn't, at least, mention the whole gambit of staged photos that hit the wire (especially when Hamas is involved, and AP, Reuters, and Agence France Presse are snapping the shutter).

While I'm at it...I would be a dolt not to mention how easy it is to dupe the media in reference to faked photos (fauxtography).