Location: Tulsa, Oklahoma, Tonga

Friday, April 08, 2005

Pulitzer Prize for Blogging (Part One)

Without assistance from bloggers like Atrios, Attywood, and Crooks and Liars , I would not likely know just how upsetting the news business is for our friends Michelle Malkin and the fellows at Powerline. This week, for example, found Ms. Malkin and the Powerliners knicker-knotted over the Pulitzer Prizes awarded on Monday. Fortunately, the Pulitzer Committee has yet to designate a Prize for blogging, so Ms. Malkin et al. have ample time to polish their craft.

[NOTE: There is so much to sort out here that I have split this post into two sections. I’ll do my best to get the second part out later today.]

As Ms Malkin’s blog headline shouts, there is “CONTROVERSY OVER PULITZER-WINNING AP PHOTOS". There is controversy, too, because she is among those who are creating the controversy. After displaying one photo of the twenty that collectively captured for the Associated Press the Pulitzer Prize for breaking news photography, she states the nature of the disturbance and thoughtfully links to all of her chums who are a-twitter over the pictures at issue:

Via LGF's readers, we are reminded that the Belmont Club first raised troubling questions in December 2004 (here and here and here) about how exactly the AP photographer arrived at the scene.

Also wondering at the time about the AP's relationship with the pictured terrorists and the related media ethics issues/disclosure obligations involved were Power Line and Roger L. Simon (also here). See also Mudville Gazette and Joe Katzman for background.

She follows by providing “a key post from John Hinderaker at Power Line on Dec. 25 [that]sums up the outrage and highlights the AP's admission that its photographer was 'tipped off' and had a relationship with the terrorists.”

Almost. The Key Post sums up evidence that Mr. Hinderaker might have been eligible for an IEP* during his school years, because he has difficulty reading.

First, the AP never “admitted” that its photographer was “tipped off”. The words attributed to the AP, as Mr. Hinderaker posted, were that the photographer “was likely ‘tipped off to a demonstration that was supposed to take place on Haifa Street’”, and that the photographer “‘definitely would not have had foreknowledge’ of a violent event like an execution.”

Notwithstanding the comprehension errors Mr. Hinderaker incurred translating English to English, one should note that the AP non-admission came not from an AP spokesperson, but from an unnamed source at the AP “knowledgeable about the events [that led to the photographed insurgent action]”. All of us should appreciate the fact that Mr. Hinderaker, a “lawyer with a nationwide litigation practice,” has no concerns about the hearsay nature of (in Mr. Hinderaker’s words) “this anonymous comment from an AP spokesman”, since it comes from a Salon article defending the AP. At least we know that Mr. Hinderaker trusts Salon as an reliably credible source.

Second, the AP never “admitted” that the photographer had a “relationship with terrorists.” On this point Ms. Malkin misstates Mr. Hinderaker’s post. I’m certain that she has never previously made such a mistake, and will want to correct her error as soon as possible. Mr. Hinderaker actually said that the Associated Press had a relationship with terrorists (in fact, his post of 25 December 2004 is titled “AP Admits Relationship With Terrorists”).

Unfortunately, this differs from his conclusion in his own post, which is that the “AP is using photographers who have relationships with the terrorists”.

Mr. Hinderaker agitatedly reached that conclusion after reading a comment on the Poynter Online Forum . Characterizing the comment as an email to Jim Romenesko (and I have no reason to doubt him), Mr. H cited “another AP spokesman, this time Jack Stokes, the AP's director of media relations.” Of course, it can’t be another spokesman, because there was no first spokesman.

The damning non-admission?

Several brave Iraqi photographers work for The Associated Press in places that only Iraqis can cover. Many are covering the communities they live in where family and tribal relations give them access that would not be available to Western photographers, or even Iraqi photographers who are not from the area.

Insurgents want their stories told as much as other people and some are willing to let Iraqi photographers take their pictures. It's important to note, though, that the photographers are not "embedded" with the insurgents. They do not have to swear allegiance or otherwise join up philosophically with them just to take their pictures.

So, some local individuals who live in communities that might be less than open to strangers (parallel to someone with a New England accent trying to mingle with the locals in rural southwestern Oklahoma) are able get information from and pictures of other local individuals who just might see themselves as people with a different version of their circumstances. Or, as Mr.Hinderaker and Ms. Malkin creatively imagine, “several Iraqi photographers who work for the AP” equals “the AP” equals one specific (although, at the time of the discussions, unidentified) photographer in Iraq.

Visually, the Malkin-Hinderaker Equation would be

(several Iraqi photographers who work for the AP)= AP = one photographer

Mathematics is not their strong suit, either.

Part Two to follow...

* Individualized Education Plan, mandated by the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act