Friday, June 20, 2008

N&O's Duke Hoax photojournalism exposed

Today at the Raleigh News & Observer’s Editors Blog senior editor Dan Barkin posts “The Perp Walk” which begins [extracts] below, after which I've posted below the star line a comment I've left on Barkin's post thread.

Barkin begins - - -

On the front of our Business section today was a photo of a former Bear Sterns hedge fund manager, Matthew Tannin, being helped into a car by a federal law enforcement agent. [Tannin was handcuffed.] This is what is known among journalists as the "perp walk." Perp being short for perpetrator.

This is the occasion, after an arrest is made, when the accused is being taken from one place -- like a lockup -- to another place -- like a courthouse. Or maybe from the courthouse to another place. This is usually the best opportunity for photographers to get pictures or video of the perp.

In high profile cases, the perp walk takes on special symbolism. It conveys a message from law enforcement: We got him. We are on the case. ....

There is a good chance that the perp being walked today will never see the inside of a prison cell when all is said and done. ...

[But] even if the accused win in court, they'll still have to live down the images of being perp walked being seen on CNN by everyone who went to high school with them.

Barkin’s entire post is here.


Dear Editor Barkin:

Your post today raises a number of important questions concerning N&O photojournalism.

The N&O knew in Spring 2006 that under the worst circumstances only three of the Duke lacrosse players could have been guilty of the wildly improbable gang rape, beating and robbery the liar Crystal Mangum claimed occurred.

Nevertheless, the N&O when ahead and published a large, color photo of team members engaged in the “cover your heads with jackets” type perp walk we often seen Mafiosos engage in.

But, as you know, the players were covering their heads not because of shame for who they were, but because they knew then they would be targeted by hate groups and other unstable people inflamed by false and racially divisive media coverage.

The N&O on Apr. 2, 2006 published a photo of the Vigilante poster containing face photos and the names of 43 white members of the lacrosse team. You published it after concerns for the players’ safety had been expressed. I believe you were the only daily in North Carolina to do so.

The N&O's publication of the Vigilante poster photo came a few weeks after the N&O promised angry Muslims it would not reproduce even one of the Danish cartoons which were the subject of an international story following riots and killings by outraged Muslims in many countries.

Based on the N&O’s decisions in the three instances I cite, a reasonable person will conclude the N&O has double standards for its photojournalism.

It is alright at the N&O to publish the Duke Lax perp walk and Vigilante poster photos because the people pictured are white males. However, in similar news circumstances we can be confident the N&O wouldn't have published those photos had the subjects been black males.

Another double standard the N&O practices can be summarized as follows: Do nothing that will anger Muslims here in the Triangle or endanger McClatchy journalists in the Middle East and elsewhere. On the other hand, when white males are accused by liars like Crystal Mangum and Mike Nifong and enabled by many at Duke, in “advocacy” and “rights” groups, and cheered on by the liberal/leftist media, it’s open season on those white males. Anything goes.

I’d like to think the N&O will adopt a single photojournalism standard, but I seriously doubt it.

In any case, Editor Barkin, I’ve once again called these very serious matters to the N&O’s attention.

I hope you’ll comment. If you do, I’ll publish your comment in full at my blog.


John in Carolina


Ex-prosecutor said...

I'm not surprised by the sensational and irresponsible journalism practiced by the N&O. Friends I've had over the years who are newspaper reporters are appalled by the dumbing-down of the newspapers industry, presumably so papers can complete with the sensationalism of the television news, which, in my city, consists entirely of crime stories.

There still are some thoughtful and considerate people who work at newspapers. Many reporters, however, citing a supposed sacred obligation to report all that happens, have no hesitation about hurting innocent people by printing non-stories, intended to compete with tv news.

I think the only thing keeping newspapers on a mostly higher plane than tv news shows is that a newspaper must be read, an activity in which passive viewers of tv news do not wish to engage. Or maybe cannot.

Anonymous said...

New York Fair Trial Free Press Conference



Updated May 2004


4. Law enforcement and court personnel should not prevent the photographing of defendants when they are in public places outside the courtroom. They should neither encourage nor discourage pictures or televising but they should not pose the accused.

(How many times do police stage manage a perp walk?)

Anonymous said...

John -

You mention an interesting point about the MSM and its relationship to Moslems. I can't say this with absolute certainty, but I get the impression that the MSM will not criticize Moslem actions too severely. (Correct me if I'm wrong.) The interesting thing is that Islam is effecting a kind of censorship on our right to free speech that we would not stand for from any other group.

I also note that our Canadian friends seem to be on the verge of throwing free speech in Canada out the window. I am referring to the kangaroo trial of MarK Steyn for publishing actual statements by Moslem clerics in his book, America Alone (quite good - I would recommend it). Apparently, it offended the sensitivities of some Moslems in Canada and they have claimed it is hate speech. Reality (or truth) is apparently no defense.

Jack in Silver Spring