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January 5, 2005
Murder in BaghdadBy Greyhawk
THE al-Qaeda group led by Abu Musab al-Zarqawi has claimed responsibility for the recent murder of the Governor of Baghdad.
Baghdad's governor, Ali Haidary, was killed by insurgents who swarmed over his convoy from several directions in one of the capital's poorest neighborhoods. Six bodyguards were killed with him. Haidary was a serious, meticulous man who rose from air-conditioning repair merchant to the capital's seat of power through neighborhood, district and city councils established after the fall of Hussein.
The vivid description is all we have, apparently on this day the AP cameraman was otherwise engaged.
Not so last month. On December 19, the Associated Press published a story recounting the murder of election officials in a Baghdad street by "insurgents." The story, in fact, is more a description of the dramatic photographs of the event, and is even headlined "Photo Sequence Shows Rebels Executing Electoral Workers".
Within hours, Wretchard at the Belmont Club wonders "out loud" what the odds are of a photographer being at the right place and time to record such an event, and to have the "courage" to take the pictures rather than to seek cover. Roger Simon comments too.
Internet site Salon.com attempts to re-frame the discussion, labeling Wretchard and Roger as right-wing crackpots and requests anyone wanting to read about it give them money or watch an ad. Here's an excerpt, in which we encounter the preposterous situation of a knowledgeable but anonymous spokesman for a news organization explaining the reason their photographer is anonymous too:
A source at the Associated Press knowledgeable about the events covered in Baghdad on Sunday told Salon that accusations that the photographer was aware of the militants' plans are "ridiculous." The photographer, whose identity the AP is withholding due to safety concerns, was likely "tipped off to a demonstration that was supposed to take place on Haifa Street," said the AP source, who was not at liberty to comment by name. But the photographer "definitely would not have had foreknowledge" of a violent event like an execution, the source said.
Wretchard and Roger respond, free of charge.
It's not about Salon, after all. This is serious business, and people are dying for AP profit margins.
Then Jim Romenesko at Poynter Online receives solicited email from Jack Stokes, AP's director of media relations, regarding Salon's story. Said email being key to the issue, I'll reproduce it here in it's entirety:
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.
Perhaps Mr Stokes expected readers to utter these words now: "ohhhhh... well, that settles that! Never mind then. Carry on!"
Understanding the blogosphere does not seem to be a requirement for "media reations" jobs with the AP.
What we have here is a seminar on journalistic ethics, brought to you by the blogosphere. Beyond the Salon piece, expect the response of the "pros" to echo that of their response to the Rather Forgeries, which I'll quote here in full:
And there you have it. Since no one's going to answer the questions raised, beyond proselytizing policy, freedom of the press, pure neutrality, etc. etc. there's no reason to ask any questions.
Other than those reasons provided by this blogger from Egypt:
The blogoshere is currently discussing the issue of how an Associated Press photographer managed to stand in the middle of one of Iraq's (and probably the world's) most dangerous roads and shot a picture after another of a ruthless murder in the middle of the day. As I mentioned in my previous post, AP's execution pictures raise a lot of questions that we bloggers are responsible to find answers for. In the post-Dan Rather world, we should quit giving huge media outlets the chance to monopolize the flow of information around the world.
Given that the elections are approaching, more violence is expected, and this event ocurred a couple miles from where I now sit, here's a few of my questions for the AP to ignore:
How much did the AP pay for those shots?"
I mean the snapshots, of course, not the gunshots
How much would exclusive photos of "insurgents" beheading an aid worker be worth to the AP?
How about a series where the "insurgents" plant a roadside bomb, wait for an American food convoy, and detonate it? Maybe with an ensuing gun battle as bonus. How much for photos of that?
Everything has a price, as they say. Would pictures like the ones I've described be worth more or less than those of Muslims killing Muslims?
How about a planned "demonstration" at a polling place on election day in Baghdad? If that same photographer was invited by the same group to a "demonstration" there, how much would he "earn" for his pictures?
Posted by Greyhawk / January 5, 2005 7:41 PM | Permalink
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November 26, 2010
I think anyone who's ever pondered the "comment" option - once only available on blogs and bulletin boards, now ubiquitous on almost any web site - will appreciate this:
The so-called faculty of writing is not so much a faculty of writing as it is a faculty of thinking. When a man says, "I have an idea but I can't express it"; that man hasn't an idea but merely a vague feeling. If a man has a feeling of that kind, and will sit down for a half an hour and persistently try to put into writing what he feels, the probabilities are at least 90 percent that he will either be able to record it, or else realize that he has no idea at all. In either case, he will do himself a benefit.
That's wisdom from the past, captured for posterity at the US Naval Institute, shared via the web on the institute's 137th anniversary.
From their about page:
"The Naval Institute has three core activities," among them, History and Preservation:
The Naval Institute also has recently introduced Americans at War, a living history of Americans at war in their own words and from their own experiences. These 90-second vignettes convey powerful stories of inspiration, pride, and patriotism.
Take a look at the collection, and you'll see it's not limited to accounts from those who served on ships at sea, members of the other branches are well-represented.
I'm fortunate to have met USNI's Mary Ripley, she's responsible for the institute's oral history program (and she's the daughter of the late John Ripley, whose story is told here). She also deserves much credit for their blog. ("We're not the Navy nor any government agency. Blog and comment freely.") We met at a milblog conference - Mary knew (and I would come to realize) that milbloggers are the 21st-century version of exactly what the US Naval Institute is all about. Once that light bulb came on in my head, I mentioned a vague idea for a project to her - milblogs as the 21st century oral history that they are.
"Put that in writing," she said (of course - see first paragraph above!) - and here's part of the result.
Shortly after the first tent was pitched by the American military in Iraq a wire was connected to a computer therein, and the internet was available to a generation of Americans at war - many of whom had grown up online. From that point on, at any given moment, somewhere in Iraq a Soldier, Sailor, Airman or Marine was at a keyboard sharing the events of his or her day with the folks back home. While most would simply fire off an email, others took advantage of the (then) relatively new online blogging platforms to post their thoughts and experiences for the entire world to see. The milblog was born - and from that moment to this stories detailing everything from the most mundane aspects of camp life to intense combat action (often described within hours of the event) have been available on the web...
And et cetera - but since you're reading this on a milblog, you probably knew that. And you know that milblogs aren't just blogs written by troops at war, that many friends, family members, and supporters likewise documented their story of America at war online in near-real time, as those stories developed.
The diversity in membership of that group is broad, the one thing we all have in common is the impulse to make sense of the seemingly senseless, and communicate the tale - for each of us that impulse was strong enough to overcome whatever barriers prevent the vast majority of people from doing the same. Everyone at some point has some vague idea they believe should be shared - we were the people who, from some combination of internal and external urging, found and spent those many half hours persistently trying to write it down.
But where will all that be in another 137 years? Or five or ten, for that matter. That's something I've asked myself since at least 2004 - when I wrote this:
Membership in the ghost battalion has grown in the years since, and an ever growing majority of those abandoned-but-still-standing sites are vanishing. Have you checked out Lt Smash's site lately? How about Sgt Hook's? If you're a long-time milblog reader you know the first widely-read milblog from Operation Iraq Freedom and the first widely-read milblog from Afghanistan are both gone from the web. If you're a relative newcomer to this world you may never even have heard of them - or the dozens upon dozens of others who carried forth the standard they set down.
If you have a vague notion that something should be done about that, (a notion I've heard expressed more than once...) then you and I and the good folks at the US Naval Institute are in agreement. Preserving the history documented by the milbloggers is just one of the goals of the milblog project, the once-vague idea that we're now making real.
And it's a big idea, if I say so myself - too big to explain in one simple blog post, so stand by for more. Likewise, it's too big a task to be accomplished by just one person. So if you're a milblogger (and exactly what is a milblogger? is a topic for much further discussion on its own) I'm asking for your help. All I'll really need is just a little bit (maybe just one or two of those half hours...) of your time, and your willingness to tell the tale.
We've already made history, it's time to save it.
(More to follow...)
The Mudville Gazette is the on-line voice of an American warrior and his wife who stands by him. They prefer to see peaceful change render force of arms unnecessary. Until that day they stand fast with those who struggle for freedom, strike for reason, and pray for a better tomorrow.
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