Monday, March 19, 2007

Hack Journalists and Paparazzi

When I picked up Saturday's Washington Post, I read the front page article by hack tabloid journalist Amy Goldstein, and then further read the trash written by that other muckraker Dana Milbank....

Oh, wait. Was that offensive? Hmmm. Reviewing the caption that accompanied Ms. Goldstein's article, dead center top above the fold, was the following caption:

"Valerie Plame strolls into the hearing room, the only sound the paparazzi's shutters."
Then, I read in Milbank's article the following:
"A hearing room in the Rayburn House Office Building, March 16, 2007. Valerie Plame, playing herself, enters the room fashionably late, and 30 paparazzi start shooting. She walks with the slow poise of a catwalk model, pausing for the cameras on the way to the witness table."
Now, the photo is credited to the post's photographer, not a paparazzi. I know her. In other photographs from the event, published by Reuters, the AP, and (well, if you believe the reporter's count, and a round "30" seems a bit inaccurate to me) 27 others, are colleagues whom I know quite well, and they too are not paparazzi. To coin a phrase - "I know paparazzi. I've worked alongside paparazzi, and those men and women there that day were not paparazzi."

The word "paparazzi" is a pejorative. Just like calling the Post a tabloid. Just like calling Goldstein a hack or Milbank a muckraker. Those members of the Senate Press Photographers Gallery can courteously stand behind a velvet rope between two stanchions at the most intense of a news event, and all come away friends and bruise-free. The paparazzi require metal barricades be erected, and strong-armed security details to keep the true paparazzi from their prey.

Those photographers were the working press. The visual arm of the reporters you see clamoring for the Starr Report, the Iraqi Study Group Report, or any other hotly debated document's release. Do we ascribe to those reporters who are hoping to get the document and get it on air first or get their story onto the wire first, perjoratives?

I have known many a time a reporter has wanted a photographer with them on a story, because they know that having a photograph and solid headline will get their pieces read. A story without a photograph is less likely to be read, and a story with a large photograph is much more likely to be rememebered. These insights, from the EyeTrack III study reaffirm what photographers have already known, but some reporters might have forgotten. Clearly those that refer to their breathren in a derogatory manner need a refresher.
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Andrew Smith said...

In a similar vein, don't you hate it when written journalists refer to photo journalists as 'snappers', or when they describe a photo as a 'snap'? It betrays the low value they place upon photographs. There have been a few occasions when an editor has asked me to "go and get a snap" of some event and it makes me feel so small, as if all the thought that goes into the photo doesn't matter.

Anonymous said...

Somewhere out there in the blogosphere, there's a paparazzo complaining that they wouldn't be found dead in a courtroom -- what with some celebrity we've never heard of having just arrived in town.

At least the photographer in the the Post photograph is wearing a suit.

Anonymous said...

I was also shocked to see the comments made by the "writer" for the Post. I looked for email address to write her and suggest she be a wee bit more respectful of her fellow professionals. I could not find it.

My question is - who was her editor and why did they allow that to fly. The Post is known for its stellar photo talent. (Carol Guzy, Lucien Perkins)

Why would they allow one of their writers to denigrate one of their colleague?.

Anonymous said...

To be fair, the writers of the articles don't usually caption the photos - that's the editorial staff.

Sam Allen said...

A-*expletive deleted* men. I cannot describe the feeling of insult I get when I am referred to as paparazzi, even in jest. I am no mosquito. I work very hard to keep readers informed of important events and I do it in an artistic way. Thank you for posting this Mr. Harrington. I thoroughly enjoy being able to read this blog.

Anonymous said...

I think they were getting cute with the cut to play to the screen play theme. Still not cool but they were not being totally serious.

Anonymous said...

I'm sorry but I'm going to disagree and say that many (some; not all) of these press photographers do submit duplicate images using fake names to agencies that in fact sell to the tabloids. Those who shoot for some photo agencies indirectly have images that make it into the tabloids, by no fault of their own; but by the greedy agency that is willing to sell to a celebrity rag for the extra cash. This is nothing new; this practice has been taking place for years. If you say that you work with some of these kind folks on Capital Hill; well then you are sure to know who they are and who they submit these images to on a regular basis.

I know that you may not want to believe or admit that this is true but it is.

Sorry to burst your bubble; nice Blog though.

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