Friday, September 18, 2009

Cheney Meat-Carving Photo Creates Uproar

What a title huh?

Hey Vice-Precedence Blog readers. Well, I was worried about what I would write today, since former VP Cheney went under the knife yesterday for elective back surgery. You can read all the details below in the quick little blog I posted yesterday on learning the news. From all reports-the surgery went well.

So I was worried, but luckily(?) a new story was revealed. This week in NEWSWEEK a photo was published showing former VP Cheney sticking a knife into a piece of meat on a bloody carving board with a quote about the CIA torture controversy we've been covering. You can see the picture above.

Pulitzer Prize winning photographer David Hume Kennerly was very upset with how NEWSWEEK cropped his photo and made sure to call attention to it in an essay called "Chop and Crop". Here's what he wrote in its entirety:

"The Sept. 14th Newsweek cover line — “Is Your Baby Racist?” — should have included a sub-head, “Is Dick Cheney a Butcher?”

Featured inside the magazine was a full-page, stand-alone picture of former Vice President Dick Cheney, knife in hand, leaning over a bloody carving board. Newsweek used it to illustrate a quote that he made about C.I.A. interrogators. By linking that photo with Mr. Cheney’s comment and giving it such prominence, they implied something sinister, macabre, or even evil was going on there.

I took that photograph at his daughter Liz’s home during a two-day assignment, and was shocked by its usage. The meat on the cutting board wasn’t the only thing butchered. In fact, Newsweek chose to crop out two-thirds of the original photograph, which showed Mrs. Cheney, both of their daughters, and one of their grandchildren, who were also in the kitchen, getting ready for a simple family dinner.

However, Newsweek’s objective in running the cropped version was to illustrate its editorial point of view, which could only have been done by shifting the content of the image so that readers just saw what the editors wanted them to see. This radical alteration is photo fakery. Newsweek’s choice to run my picture as a political cartoon not only embarrassed and humiliated me and ridiculed the subject of the picture, but it ultimately denigrated my profession.

Photojournalists fight the credibility battle every day, from combating digitally faked photos to being lumped in with the paparazzi, a group of camera-carrying cretins who have no respect for anything, particularly the people they hound. In the case of my Cheney photo, Newsweek is guilty not just of blurring but of blowing up that line between tabloid-style sensationalism and honest photojournalism.

This incident is another example of why many people don’t believe what they see or read. And America clearly notices these shifts in journalism. This week, the respected Pew Research Center for the People and the Press released a poll stating that nearly two-thirds of Americans surveyed believe that news stories are inaccurate and biased — 25 years ago, the number was half that.

We photojournalists have a long and storied tradition of striving for objectivity. Many of my colleagues have died flying that banner. I consider myself as much historian as photographer, having spent a 40-year career endeavoring to make photographs that inform, not misinform. My heroes are the likes of Joe Rosenthal, who photographed the Marines raising the flag over Iwo Jima; Eddie Adams, whose photo of a South Vietnamese police officer shooting a Viet Cong suspect changed the course of a war; and countless others who have hung their lives out to capture the facts through the lens of a camera. Their photos have provided a raw and unflinching view of the world and have contributed to a free society’s understanding of sometimes harsh reality.

The advent of digital photography and the proliferation of instant images have dulled the power of historical photos against the steady and relentless 24-hour drumbeat of the “breaking story” syndrome, which holds publications and networks hostage to the relentless demands of feeding the News Monster. It doesn’t help to have the photos misrepresented on top of that.

However, I still believe in the power of the image to empower, embolden and inspire. Photojournalists, editors and writers must continue the struggle to turn their trained minds and eyes to telling and showing the truth, and holding that quivering line of credibility against what is beginning to feel like insurmountable odds."

Well, Kennerlys essay created an uproar from the Right as a perfect example of the "liberal media bias". K. Daniel Glover who has worked for Congressional Quarterly and The National Journal who now writes for the conservative website Accuracy in Media stated that:

"NEWSWEEK's reputation will continue to plummet as long as it keeps looking at the world through a lens with the cap on it."

NEWSWEEK Vice-President of Corporate Communications Frank J. DeMaria responded to Kennerly's essay with a statement of his own on behalf of the magazine:

We doubt any reasonable reader would, in David’s phrase, think something “sinister, macabre, or even evil” was going on in that image as presented. Yes, the picture has been cropped, an accepted practice of photographers, editors and designers since the invention of the medium. We cropped the photograph using editorial judgment to show the most interesting part of it. Is it a picture of the former vice president cutting meat? Yes, it is. Has it been altered? No. Did we use the image to make an editorial point — in this case, about the former vice president’s red-blooded, steak-eating, full-throated defense of his views and values? Yes, we did.

Some people are saying that there is more outrage at this cropping of the photo than about the former VP's support of questionable interrogation tactics. Some say this is the worst kind of psuedo-journalism. Its an interesting controversy- another controversy in the long string of them surrounding this polarizing VP.

We here at "Vice-Precedence" believe in giving you the unvarnished, non-partisan truth, so I would like to post Kennerlys picture in its entirety here on the blog. However its protected and copyrighted, so the best I can do is post the cropped photo, remember-NEWSWEEK cropped it to show just the former VP sticking the knife into the piece of meat on the bloody carving board-not the entire picture of the Cheney Family. However here is the link to Kennerlys article so you can see the whole picture. When viewed in its entirety without the quote about the CIA issue, it is simply a picture of an American family-maybe not some peoples idea of an "ideal" American family. But certainly a unique one in many ways.

Let us know what you think of this story. Keep spreading the word about "Vice-Precedence". Finally, to all our Jewish readers-Happy New Year! Have a great Rosh Hashannah weekend. L'shana Tova! Thanks!

Matt Saxe

No comments:

Post a Comment