Racist Photo Captions: Blacks 'Loot,' Whites 'Find'
- From: marcelocrisanto@xxxxxxx
- Date: 3 Sep 2005 10:17:13 -0700
Via NY Transfer News Collective
All the News that Doesn't Fit
sent by Doug Hunt (activ-l)
Salon - Sep 1, 2005
"Looting" or "finding"?
Bloggers are outraged over the different captions
on photos of blacks and whites in New Orleans.
By Aaron Kinney
Sept. 1, 2005 | Two photographs of New Orleans residents wading
through chest-deep water unleashed a wave of chatter among bloggers
Wednesday about whether black people are being treated unfairly in
media coverage of post-hurricane looting.
One of the images, shot by photographer Dave Martin for the Associated
Press, shows a young black man wading through chest-deep waters after
"looting" a grocery store, according to the caption. The young man
appears to have a case of Pepsi under one arm and a full garbage bag in
In the other, similar shot, taken by photographer Chris Graythen for
AFP/Getty Images, a white man and a light-skinned woman are shown
wading through chest-deep water after "finding" goods including bread
and soda, according to the caption, in a local grocery store.
The images were both published on Tuesday by Yahoo News. "We don't edit
photo captions," Yahoo P.R. manager Brian Nelson told Salon. "Sometimes
we take a look at the photos and we'll choose to pull photos, but the
captions run as is." A search of AP and Getty's image databases
confirms that Yahoo News did not alter either of the photo captions
before posting them online.
Looting has become a serious problem in the aftermath of Katrina, and
conditions in the area continue to be extremely challenging for
everyone, journalists included. Bloggers were quick to raise
allegations of insensitivity and racism regarding the disparity in the
two captions -- but did they pass judgment too quickly? Not only did
the photos come from separate outlets, bloggers had no knowledge of the
circumstances in which the shots were taken, beyond what appeared in
the published captions.
On Wednesday, D.C. Web gossip Wonkette suggested the Associated Press
while a blogger at Daily Kos commented alongside the juxtaposed images,
"And don't forget. It's not looting if you're white."
"I am curious how one photographer knew the food was looted by one but
not the other," wrote Boston Globe correspondent Christina Pazzanese,
in a letter posted on media commentator Jim Romenesko's blog. "Were
interviews conducted as they swam by? Should editors, in a rush to
publish poignant or
startling images, relax their standards or allow personal or regional
biases creep into captions and stories?"
The AP database includes two other images from the same scene by
photographer Dave Martin that refer to looters in the captions, though
neither actually shows an explicit act of looting. Jack Stokes, AP's
director of media relations, confirmed today that Martin says he
witnessed the people in his images looting a grocery store. "He saw the
person go into the shop and take food," Stokes said, "and that's why he
wrote 'looting' in the caption."
Santiago Lyon, AP's director of photography, told Salon that all
captions are vetted by editors and are the result of a dialogue between
editor and photographer. Lyon said AP's policy is that each
photographer can describe only what he or she actually sees. He added,
"When we see people go into businesses and come out with goods, we call
it 'looting.'" On the other hand, he said, "When we just see them
carrying things down the road,
we call it 'carrying items.'"
Regarding the AFP/Getty "finding" photo by Graythen, Getty spokeswoman
Bridget Russel said, "This is obviously a big tragedy down there, so
we're being careful with how we credit these photos." Russel said that
Graythen had discussed the image in question with his editor and that
if Graythen didn't witness the two people in the image in the act of
looting, then he couldn't say they were looting.
But if he didn't witness an act of looting, how did Graythen determine
where the items came from, or if they were "found"? "I wish I could
tell you," Russel said. "I haven't been able to talk to Chris."
"The only thing I can tell you is they don't assume one way or
another," she added.
Yahoo News published another photo Tuesday of a looting scene that
caught bloggers' attention. This one, by AP photographer Bill Feig,
shows a white man walking away from a looted convenience store, looking
in a grocery bag, while a black man jumps out of the store's broken
front window. The caption reads, "As one person looks through their
shopping bag, left, another jumps through a broken window, while
leaving a convenience store ... in Metairie, La." According to the
caption, Feig shot the image while on a helicopter tour of Louisiana
with Gov. Kathleen Blanco.
"I think it's fair to say that he described what he saw ... which is
somebody going through their bag," Stokes said, affirming that Feig
must not have seen the man with the grocery bag actually leaving the
Both Stokes and Russel said their photographers would be unable to
comment further on the images for now, because of the chaos and poor
communications conditions prevailing in New Orleans and the surrounding
The stakes remain high in the aftermath of this disaster, says
Pazzanese. "Seems to me the national 'crisis mode' coverage of Katrina
in a predominantly black, poor part of the country presents a number of
professional challenges for everyone in the media around the subject of
racial and economic sensitivity," she wrote on Romenesko. "Perhaps
these photos will stimulate a media 'gut check' as we race to tell the
stories of the thousands who lost their lives and livelihoods."
NY Transfer News Collective
A Service of Blythe Systems
Since 1985 - Information for the Rest of Us .
339 Lafayette St., New York, NY 10012
- Prev by Date: Ni propaganda ni condiciones, ayuda solidaria al pueblo de Estados Unidos
- Next by Date: Re: One Kennykins Whopper to go... BURNT TO A CRISP!
- Previous by thread: Ni propaganda ni condiciones, ayuda solidaria al pueblo de Estados Unidos
- Next by thread: An AP Essay: Is this happening in America?