[OPE-L:5997] Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: alleged CNN falsification

From: nicola taylor (n.taylor@student.murdoch.edu.au)
Date: Sun Sep 23 2001 - 00:58:06 EDT

Paul writes to Allin:

>It should be possible to get to the bottom of this and perhaps SEE the
>videos in question.  I guess it depends upon how is important energy now
>spent on this item.  Rakesh thinks it's inconsequential but I don't.  I
>sense you agree the truth of the matter is consequential, but you are
>convinced of CNN's truthfulness. 

I think it would be a very interesting lead to follow up, if you/someone
has time.  [CNN tends to be a very sophisticated news producer and I would
be quite surprised if they used old footage in a breaking news story, but
it is not impossible and stranger things have happened].  

On the issue of 'truth' however, I think that Paul has completely missed
Rakesh's point.  Which was (correct me if I'm wrong, Rakesh) that the
people whose images were projected into American living rooms were not
interviewed or asked to express their point of view.  On the contrary their
point of view was wholly ignored and adapted to fit within the story that
CNN wanted to tell.  The question about the 'truth' and 'falsity' of film
and still images therefore goes much deeper than the narrow question of
'when' the film was taken (although this is important in its own right).  

To make this distinction clear, consider that every day photographers all
over the globe take tens of thousands of images.  Images are then selected
by experience managers in 3 agencies (Reuters, Associated Press and AFP).
The 'best' images (according to 'newsworthy' criteria established within
these agencies) are clipped from the role of film - with a frame on each
side - and transmitted electronically to newpapers around the world,
usually with generic captions (eg. 'Iraqi refugees').  The photographer has
no control whatsoever in how these images are then used.  On the contrary,
editors select very objectively from the thousands of images arriving in
their gram rooms each day.  By objectively, I mean that they choose those
images that most effectively illustrate stories that the newspaper's
journalists have already written.  Usually, the agency is credited and not
the photographer (eg, AP will appear beneath the image).  Usually, the
photographer surrenders property rights to the agency.  Usually, the
photographer gets paid for each photograph that the agency clips (not for
the images on either side, or for the rest of the film).  Usually survivors
in a difficult trade rapidly develop a good 'news sense' (i.e. a principle
of self-censorship operates in that photographers can - and must - ignore
what they know won't sell).

On the issue of 'truth' then we are confronted with a well oiled machine
that routinely turns out extremely powerful images that are used primarily
to sell stories.  The 'truths' behind those images are not a part of these
stories in any meaningful sense.  The shocking aspect of this practice is
precisely that it is an accepted and almost universal practice - just a
part of the daily business of producing a newspaper.

I do not mean to disparage the many photographer's who daily try to get the
'truth' behind their images across to the world through alternative means
(through the Magnum Agency based in New York, for example).  Neither do I
mean to say that the question of 'when' images are taken is
'inconsequential'.  My concern is that a focus on narrow issues should not
get in the way of informing ourselves on *how* the machine works in
general, something we must do if we wish in any way to combat it.

As a group, we could perhaps focus on some way to construct an alternative
message.  Does anyone have ideas?  How about a simple website linked to
select sources?


Nicola Mostyn (Taylor)
Faculty of Economics
Murdoch University
South Street
W.A. 6150

Tel. 61 8 9385 1130 
email: n.taylor@stu.murdoch.edu.au

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