The official newspapers of gets huffy about integrity.
February 12, 2001 10:01 AM   Subscribe

The official newspapers of gets huffy about integrity. Back in 1999 the L.A. Times produced a special section praising the Staples center and sort of forgot to mention that they were splitting the ad revenue with Staples. At the time their management was pretty upfront about tearing down the wall between news and advertistisement. Now they've decided to act like journalists again. However, I'm not so sure that what this guy did was all that unethical. Maybe it is. Maybe it isn't.
posted by rdr (5 comments total)
I don't see where there is a problem. This guy is just a photographer, not and editor or a LA Times feature journalist. Sure photographers are "journalist" as well but when did taking the picture of the POTUS become a problem with journalistic integrity.

Anyone know why this would be a problem?
posted by Brilliantcrank at 10:17 AM on February 12, 2001

As a journalist, I can see where there's a slight conflict of interest. I can also see where the newspaper editors would prefer that one of their employees avoid even the appearance of a conflict of interest. But you're right, gsxl, this is a photographer, not a reporter. Where a reporter would be out of line because he or she could be accused in the future of writing softball stories about the president, what's a photographer going to do -- allow Bush too much soft lighting? The Times is overreacting big time to this, and all it will do is make them look like hypocrites to the public, and irritate their reporters and photographers.
posted by darren at 10:45 AM on February 12, 2001

This is kind of a strange story, because at first blush, it would appear that the photographer is guilty of some breach of ethics, when in fact he had requested and been given approval to do the job by a supervisor. After the fact, the managing editor of the LA Times disagreed with that approval, asserting there was a conflict of interest. So, if anything, there is a management problem with how these approvals are handled.

The subsequent request for all persons in the LA Times newsroom to report all freelance assignments in the future is invasive to say the least and while it may be legal to ask for the information, this is not a particulary attractive condition of employment for prospective employees.

It's lucky that the photographer was in a position to return to LA and resign so he could go back and work at the White House full time.

posted by xiffix at 10:48 AM on February 12, 2001

It's not the photographer here so much as the issue of disclosure at the paper. In truth this probably happens all the time at a small-potatoes level, but the White House is a lot more noticeable. (And if you think a photographer is a neutral, objective observer of reality, and not a commentator, go back and read Photography in the Age of Falsification, an essential work of our time.)
posted by dhartung at 3:46 PM on February 12, 2001

Why is a photographer any different than reporters or any other group of journalists? Photographers have just as much editorial control as any other journalist; it would be very hard to deny that this photo is journalism, in and of itself (and with no accompanying story needed). Likewise, the famous photo of children running from a bombing in Vietnam, covered with napalm, is legendary photojournalism.

If Morse were covering something in Washington and happened to see some White House official sneaking into a motel with a hooker, would he be slower to press his shutter release? If he were sent to cover a conflict and saw soldiers committing atrocities, would he be tempted to bury the negs? Legitimate questions.

(Of course, I'm not saying that Morse didn't do the right thing by preclearing the assignments with his boss; if anything, the LA Times needs to open up lines of communication so that this doesn't come as such a surprise to the managing editor.)
posted by delfuego at 5:13 PM on February 12, 2001

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