The Lincoln Plawg - the blog with footnotes

Politics and law from a British perspective (hence Politics LAW BloG): ''People who like this sort of thing...'' as the Great Man said

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Friday, May 14, 2004

Fake Boston Globe photos: ombud speaks

(Following up the piece from yesterday.)

The tone of ombud Christine Chinlund (May 14) is abject for something that is absolutely not her fault:
IT IS AN understatement to say that the Globe erred when it ran a photo that, if you look closely, showed images of men dressed as soldiers having sex with unidentified women. It's also an understatement to say the paper regrets the error -- as was evident in the apology published yesterday as an editor's note.

Unfortunately, though rightly identifying the problem as a failure of the editorial process, she seeks to exculpate those in charge of that process.
Recall that the photo that ran in the Globe was of the two con artists holding up the fake photos for the snappers.

She quotes photography director, Catie Aldrich:
The photo, headed for the publication pipeline, should have been flagged for discussion by top editors, as all sensitive or graphic photos should be. Although several staffers saw it, no one set that process in motion; one raised a question but the message was not received in time. "There should have been a lot of checks and balances and, for whatever reason, there weren't," said Aldrich, who as photo chief takes ultimate responsibility for what she calls the "huge embarrassment."


The ultimate responsibility is clearly that of editor Martin Baron. And, if Aldrich genuinely believes that she has ultimately responsibility, that demonstrates a failure of Baron's management.

What editing does Baron do, I wonder? If I were he, I should certainly want to have the first edition spread across a conference table, and read all the heds and ledes, with a marker pen to circle the stories and photos to look at again. And any story I wasn't completely happy with would get dumped from that edition.

This would only the final act of editing of a process that should, indeed, have picked up the offending Globe photo lower down the chain. But, bearing the title of Editor, I'd not feel comfortable unless I'd looked over the product before the presses rolled.

Will Baron be kicked out for being asleep at the wheel? I should coco! Sad sacks who plagiarise - an offence many orders of magnitude less than Baron's - get shown the door, to a chorus of tut-tutting from media critics.

Jack Kelley and Jayson Blair got editors to commit hari-kari. But it's very much the exception.

All we have is the Globe's self-administered gotcha to laugh at. And pretty hollow laughter it is.

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