American Pie 07.04.04

US journalists are still agonising over the publication of the grisly pictures from Fallujah. Most US newspaper editors decided the full horror could not be conveyed without running some of the pictures. The television networks were more reticent. A spokesman for Fox said the pictures were too graphic. However, the head of photography at Associated Press, which distributed 10 pictures around the world, said he had seen much worse in his career. At the same time, CNN was criticised for showing too much restraint. In virtually every newsroom the pictures provoked hot debate and revived suggestions that the US public has been protected from some of the worst images of the war in Iraq. For example, until recently there have been very few pictures of coffins being unloaded from military planes returning from Iraq. The argument has often been that showing disturbing pictures could erode support for the war. News executives will probably debate the issue for years, but the impact on the public may be felt just months from now, when the US goes to the polls. “They are the kind of pictures that will linger,” suggested John Shulz of the National War College and now the head of Boston University’s College of Communications.

It was ironic that as events were unfolding in Fallujah, media commentator Roy Greenslade was giving a lengthy lecture to journalism students in Canada on how war coverage mixed with patriotism can often imperil the truth. He posed the question whether reporters and editors should ever conceal or hamper the public’s right to know, even if it hurts? His answer was an emphatic “no”. In fact, he claimed the world might have been a different, and better, place if war correspondents had written the truth about the horrors of First World War. He speculated that if the newspapers had done their job then, people would have pressured for a compromise settlement. The result? “Millions would have lived, Germany might not have been saddled with crushing reparations, Hitler’s Nazis might never have risen to power.” As for Iraq, despite the embedding of journalists and round-theclockcoverage misinformation still flowed. Everything, he said, was shrouded in the “fog of war” which turns everyone – soldiers, reporters, editors and, in turn, viewers and readers – into victims of misinformation.

As if things were not bad enough at The New York Times, the paper is now at war with its photographers, particularly freelances. It wants them to sign a new contract which would strip them of many of their copyright – or risk never working for the paper again. The contract requires they relinquish the right to resell their pictures for at least 10 days, which would limit sales to news magazines and other publications. Also they would not be paid any extra, no matter how pften the Times might run their pictures. The paper promises, however, it will continue to split syndication fees with the photographer. The American Society of Media Photographers is urging members not to sign.

James Hooper, former publisher of Maxim, is launching Giant, a magazine aimed at men in their 20s and 30s. He claims it will be the first “entertainment” magazine targeted at males. Actually Maxim did put out two issues last year called Maxim Goes to the Movies, but dropped the project because of poor response. Hooper says his new magazine will cover television, music, books and video games. Several former Dennis Publishing staff are joining Giant, including Mark Remy, former executive editor of Stuff.

By Jeffrey Blyth

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