Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Photos of friendly Muslims can totally get you in big trouble

Journalists take note: If you run pictures of Muslims in your paper on 9/11 who are happy celebrating Ramadan, or playing water polo, or doing anything at all except lobbing dynamite, people will be pissing at you.

Take this story in Maine. The Portland Press Herald ran a photo of local Muslims celebrating the end of Ramadan in the 9/11 edition of their paper.

Then, apparently, people complained because they showed NICE Muslims. So the paper ran an APOLOGY for not showing "both sides of the story."

Jigga whut?

Ramadan is news. Local activity is news. Local Muslims celebrating Ramadan locally is news. So you run a photo, and people get pissed off?

This sounds like bigotry. And a former staffer at the Press Herald and an editorial by their own columnist called bullshit on this embarrassing spectacle.

But it also makes me think of another event, and wonder if this is related or not. Before I took my job at the Jewish Voice & Herald of Rhode Island, I heard a story about an editor at another Jewish paper who got in trouble for running a Muslim photo. This time, it was, in their September 11 special issue, where they ran a picture of a Palestinian girl lighting a candle in remembrance for the victims who died on the Sept. 11 attacks. This was controversial because, in trying to come to terms with what the attack meant and what the world reaction to it was more like this (at right).

So did the peaceful picture go against the narrative the paper was trying to portray? Or was it simply inaccurate - was the picture of the girl not representative of the population, and therefore misleading? What do you think? Remember where you were - and what you were thinking - on Sept. 11, 2001. Which picture would you have run?


Ira said...

I'm ashamed of the editors of The Portland Press Herald for their apology. So sad and so cowardly.

shesthesheriff said...

There's an unfortunate trend going on lately. When people say 'show both sides', what they're really saying is 'show my side.'

The reader/viewer gets baited into thinking both sides hold equal value and is pushed towards making a choice between two limited viewpoints.

For example Fox news takes an issue, say immigration, and by giving the most outspoken right wing extremists the floor for hours at a time, you suddenly have people nodding their heads in agreement in regards to the Great Wall Of Mexico, etc.

This editor surely had the looming print extinction in mind when he caved in to what he must have perceived to be the overwhelming force of public sentiment. Tsk tsk.

Zeyev said...

As to your question - - both photos would have been newsworthy. And that's one case I can understand why a paper would have shown both. The fact seems that some Muslims DID celebrate the falling of the towers and others DID mourn. If the larger press had already shown both, there would be no reason to show either. If the larger press had concentrated on only half of the story, I can see running the other side as a counterpoint to remind your readers that things are hardly ever simple.

Jonathan Rubin said...

Thanks, Warren :)