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Friday, May 14, 2004
CONFUSION AND INCOMPETENCE.
Boston Globe ombudsman Christine Chinlund gets a B-minus today
for her assessment
of what went wrong with those hardcore porn pictures that made their
way into the Globe on Wednesday. The photos were promoted by
Boston City Councilor Chuck Turner and local activist Sadiki Kambon
as possibly depicting US soldiers raping Iraqi women.
Chinlund is utterly believable in
describing the comedy of errors that led to a photo's being published
in which the porn pictures were visible. In newsrooms, as in life,
whenever a mistake can be explained in terms of confusion and
incompetence rather than malicious intent, go with confusion and
It remains inexplicable how or why
Globe editors, once they realized they had a problem, decided
merely to shrink the photo rather than pull it altogether. Yes,
shrinking did make the porn more difficult to see, but come on folks.
Get it out of there. Chinlund writes:
First edition carried the
Page B2 photo three columns wide - big enough to make out the
roughly 1-inch square sexual images within it. In later editions
it was made smaller at the request of Michael Larkin, a deputy
managing editor, who said that although he could not discern the
sexual images on the page proof he viewed, he wanted to play it
safe, given the story's content.
Play it safe? Playing with fire is
more like it.
Where Chinlund falls short is in
her narrowly stubborn insistence that because she couldn't find the
porn photos on the Internet, she can't verify that Turner and Kambon
were indeed passing off porn shots as evidence of American
Various sources last week
said the photos displayed by Turner came from a pornography
website, and they may well have, although I could not trace it to
the source. I did find one news website with a note from a woman
identified as the porn site operator. She was quoted as saying the
images, shot in Hungary, had been removed because they were used
for anti-American purposes.
This morning I did my regular
Friday-morning stint on The Pat Whitley Show, on WRKO Radio
(AM 680). Whitley and his producer, Amy Hirshberg, told me that on
Wednesday, when they were first alerted to the Globe's miscue,
they were able to find the photos on a porn site within minutes.
Since then, they said, the site has been taken down.
Chinlund also fails to acknowledge
that Sherrie Gossett has done some very credible reporting on
origin of these photos for
WorldNetDaily.com. In fact, a Globe editorial
today blasting Turner for his "reckless and inflammatory" actions is
better on this score, forthrightly stating, "Turner's photos appear
to match ones found on a pornographic website."
In the Boston Herald,
columnist Cosmo Macero today criticizes
(sub. req.) the Globe for reporting on Turner and Kambon's
news conference, noting that other journalists who attended the
conference decided it wasn't worthy of public attention. Macero
observes that the article
written by the Globe reporter who covered the news conference,
Donovan Slack, was "loaded ... with expressed doubts about the
The Globe certainly could
have chosen not to run the story. Maybe that would have been a better
decision than the one its editors made. But Slack's story wasn't the
problem. Metro editor Carolyn Ryan told Chinlund, "Our intent ... was
to bring some scrutiny to allegations" that Turner had made,
"specifically his claims that he had evidence of extensive abuse
committed by US soldiers." Slack's story succeeded in doing that.
Unfortunately, as Chinlund notes,
the photo not only became the story, but it also cast Slack's report
in a "less skeptical" light.
By the way, the Wall Street
of the Web" site leads with
the Globe controversy, and relies heavily on Media Log's
running coverage. So please check it out.
And barring any further
developments, that's a wrap.
posted at 11:19 AM |
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Dan Kennedy is senior writer and media critic for the Boston Phoenix.