Magazine article Editor & Publisher

In Defense of the Really Good Ones

Magazine article Editor & Publisher

In Defense of the Really Good Ones

Article excerpt

In defense of the really good ones

Mike Gartner, who runs NBC News, touched off sort of a stir in journalism with something he said after the shooting stopped in the Persian Gulf.

Gartner delivered a speech in which he maintained that the television people showed much more valor than print people in covering that war. This infuriated a lot of print journalists for two reasons:

(1) They figured that print reporters behaved pretty bravely in the Gulf, as they have in other wars, and

(2) Gartner was not just some blow-dried announcer who comes on camera and tells the story that his off-air producers - the real reporters in network news - reported out for him.

Gartner enjoyed a distinguished career in print journalism before he took over NBC News, and his views could not easily be dismissed.

Gartner's argument was that tv people had no choice but to be braver than print people. The reason? They needed pictures to tell their stories, and taking pictures of a war is risky. Print reporters could get stories without exposing themselves to enemy fire, Gartner said, and they did.

Actually, he was right, to a certain extent anyway. It is true that print reporters usually can avoid sticking out their necks at the most dangerous moments, and only the looniest of them would behave any other way, especially when it is not necessary to get the job done. Courage is one thing. Stupidity is something else entirely.

Photographers, however, are another story. Like tv people, they need to capture the image, and they came back with some wonderful photos from the war. Clearly, many of them were shots that had required the photographers to expose himself or herself to enemy fire. This they did without hesitation. Photographers tend to be like that.

In fact, a disturbingly high percentage of still photographers for newspapers and wire services are courageous to the point of lunacy. Some still photographers exhibit such a flawed sense of risk assessment that it is a wonder anybody will issue life insurance policies on them.

A few examples:

* When I was a flack for the military, I talked the Philadelphia Inquirer into assigning a photographer to shoot a picture page of jet fighters practicing marksmanship at a gunnery range in the New Jersey Pine Barrens. They sent out a chunky, sixtyish guy in an overcoat and a fedora. His name was Bill Augustine. …

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