Baseball Crank
Covering the Front and Back Pages of the Newspaper
September 15, 2006
WAR: Pictures Lie - Frank Rich Helps

Slate has the details. Of course, Frank Rich being wrong about everything is the classic dog-bites-man story.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 10:57 PM | War 2006 | Comments (5) | TrackBack (0)
Comments

Interesting footnote to that picture, tracking down the people in the photo. So Frank Rich blew it. He is still probably the best commentator in the country. Nearly all the right wingers on talk radio and cable news are blowhards who instinctively side with authority, like the way little kids worship their parents.

Posted by: steve at September 16, 2006 7:17 PM

Isn't it amazing when a person has the opportunity to get it right, but doesn't take the 5 minutes needed to do so. I guess when you have an agenda to present, to much information just blows it out of the water.

Posted by: maddirishman at September 18, 2006 10:58 AM

There are countless times on this site when I defer to Crank because he's a lawyer, and knows more about a given subject than I, but in this case, I am an art director and it is a large part of my job to select photography for editorial use. I feel I can speak with relative authority on this topic.

To the first two commenters, there is no way for Rich to "get it right." There was no way for him to know who the people in that photo were, or to find out "in five minutes." It was a group shot taken from distance, and the photographer is under no obligation to get releases from the subjects. They were five random, anonymous New Yorkers. So there is no reasonable way for this photo or it's subjects to be "vetted" or for Rich to ask for their side. Period.

Here the twist: For that very reason it is irresponsible for Rich or the photographer to interpret the thoughts, opinions or emotions of these people. It would like a photographer in lower Manhattan that day to opine that his dust-covered subject fleeing the towers "is a pussy," and for a columnist to use that photo to bolster a similar opinion.

I will concede that this photo does look like Rich and the photographer describe it, but as they both know, a single frame is not always an accurate way to describe events, and context means everything.

That said, Rich and his editors were especially irresponsible to make assumptions about these people. They may have taken the "commentary" of the photographer too literally -- Hoepker (the photographer) editorialized about these people without ever speaking to them. Rich tags along for the ride.

In fairness to Rich, his comments are not as bad as they are being made out to be. He points out that the photo also shows the resiliance of the American public and spirit even on that day. But he is still jumping to a conclusion, and inexplicably, all of this discussion takes place without the Times actually showing the photo. This may be purely a space consideration because of Rich's column length and the prime real estate on the Op-ed page, but that is no excuse. On Sunday, the Op-Ed page is essentially a whole section of the paper, and in my opinion they are obligated to show the photo if it is central to his point, and ends up maligning it's subjects.

Now that the people in that photo have spoken up, it will be interesting to see if the Times follows up. They should. If nothing else, the subjects of the photos should write the Times, and in my opinion the Times would be negligent/irresponsible if they fail to print the letters. And it should be on Sunday to give equal time.

Kudos to Slate for printing the picture, and thanks to Crank for linking to it.

Posted by: Mr Furious at September 18, 2006 2:11 PM

I agree with Furious here - the problem isn't that Rich didn't dig deeper here, but that extrapolating as he did from a picture without knowing the participants creates an inherent risk of getting the whole story completely wrong. I think we're only belatedly coming to realize how easy it is to be manipulated by photojournalism.

Posted by: The Crank at September 18, 2006 2:52 PM

I'd like to add that Slate has a section with many of the Magnum photos from 9/11. They may be tough for some people, but for those with an appreciation for photography and photojournalism, many of the photos are fascinating, and some even hauntingly beautiful. Click here to see the pictures.

There is a travelling exhibit of these photos, and it happens to be in Ann Arbor this month. I plan to attend.

Posted by: Mr Furious at September 18, 2006 3:19 PM
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