Interesting controversy brewing in the blogosphere. Some pundits are objecting to the Associated Press winning the Pulitzer Prize for a series of photos including this one showing the broad-daylight execution of an Iraqi election worker.
The AP has said that their photographer was “tipped off” to a “demonstration” that would occurr on that street. Of course, this doesn’t mean the photographer was in cahoots with the terrorists, but it does raise the same uncomfortable questions about when are journalists being used as tools of terrorist propaganda.
There’s no easy answer here. Only the photographer (an Iraqi stringer, apparently) can tell us if he knew a public execution would be held on that street. I won’t judge him without knowing all the facts.
But perhaps the AP shouldn’t have released the photo. Terrorists contacted the photographer, the photographer showed up, and then the terrorists killed a man in front of the camera. Is that news? It was staged for the camera. Staging a photo is the cardinal sin for most newspaper photographers I know.
So, it’s a judgment call. Do we release the photo or not? I’m sure they debated it at the AP office. I just hope they used their best judgment.
I think the underlying worry here is that journalists don’t always exercise the best judgment because they’re biased against Americans. If the former international head of CNN thinks its official U.S. policy to kill journalists, then surely this bias could cloud his judgement.
Maybe bias influenced the AP’s decision. Maybe not. But in an effort to tell “the other side of the story” the AP ended up crossing the line of good journalistic ethics. In a bid to appear objective, they lost their objectivity.
I wouldn’t have released the picture; it would only encourage more action just like it. I certainly wouldn’t have awarded it the Pulitzer Prize.
Of course, journalists must make decisions like this one all the time. Tomorrow they’ll make another one.