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NY Post photo of subway death incites phony outrage …

NY Post photo of subway death incites phony outrage …

… from news media who would kill for a story

Monday in New York a mentally ill man pushed another man in front of an oncoming subway train.  A third man, instead of helping the fallen man, photographed his death and sold the images to the New York Post.  His name is R. Umar Abbasi, and many people are upset with his priorities.

In its story on the incident Tuesday, the Post reported Abbasi was waiting on the platform when he saw the man fall onto the tracks. He said he ran towards the oncoming train, firing his camera’s flash to warn the driver.

“I just started running, running, hoping that the driver could see my flash,” the newspaper quoted him as saying.

“In that moment, I just wanted to warn the train — to try and save a life,” the Post quoted him as saying.

Some critics, however, questioned Abbasi’s motives.

One Twitter user questioned why someones first instinct would be not to help the man, but instead to “snap a photo of him about to die and sell it to the NY Post.”

Reached by CNN, Abbasi was adamant that he would talk to the network only for pay.

Roundups of the professional outrage over Abbasi’s apparent cold heartedness and the Post’s sensationalism are ubiquitous, with news people like Larry King, Soledad O’Brien, and Al Roker weighing in with disgust over (a) a man’s snapping a newsworthy photo instead of trying to save a life, and (b) a newspaper’s profiting from that photo under the guise of newsworthiness.

Got it?

Good.  Now let’s rewind to 1989 and a PBS television episode on which two (now late) giants of American broadcast news, Peter Jennings of ABC and Mike Wallace of CBS, appeared with moderator Charles Ogletree to discuss ethics in journalism.  Ogletree invented a hypothetical war, the U.S. v North Kosan, and asked both men what they would do if they had the choice between warning the Americans of an imminent surprise attack by the North Kosanese (with whom they were embedded) or covering the attack.  It went without saying that they would then broadcast the slaughter on (inter)national television.

At first Jennings responded: “If I was with a North Kosanese unit that came upon Americans, I think I personally would do what I could to warn the Americans.” Wallace countered that other reporters, including himself, “would regard it simply as another story that they are there to cover.” Jennings’ position bewildered Wallace: “I’m a little bit of a loss to understand why, because you are an American, you would not have covered that story.”

“Don’t you have a higher duty as an American citizen to do all you can to save the lives of soldiers rather than this journalistic ethic of reporting fact?” Ogletree asked. Without hesitating Wallace responded: “No, you don’t have higher duty…You’re a reporter.” This persuaded Jennings, who changed his view: “I think he’s right, too. I chickened out.”

Military advisers and generals on the panel suggested “you’re Americans first, and you’re journalists second.” Wallace remained mystified by the concept, wondering “what in the world is wrong with photographing this attack by North Kosanese on American soldiers?”

Two memories from this exchange have never faded.  First is Jennings’ instinct to do right before being shamed—I suppose that’s the word—into compliance by Wallace’s cock certainty.

This seems particularly instructive, because at the time Jennings was the sole anchor and managing editor of ABC World News Tonight, making him the network’s highest-ranking newsman and one of the three most important in television.  Yet he blushed with embarrassment when the most famous face on CBS’s 60 Minutes claimed to care more than he did about doing the bidding of our enemies by capturing and broadcasting footage that any clear thinker would recognize as propaganda for the other side.

The second memory that sticks with me from that show was Ogletree’s obvious failure to follow up and ask Wallace whether he’d give the same answer if his own family were among the troops facing ambush—just as each of those men in uniform was someone else’s family.  Or he could have asked, “What if you were a soldier yourself in that platoon?  Would you expect the journalists to warn you?” The answer would have been no less revealing.

The angry reaction of another panel participant, Marine Corps colonel George Connell, presciently anticipated incidents of lost/captured reporters in our coming wars—beginning with this one that happened to one of 60 Minutes‘s own less than two years later.

“I feel utter contempt. Two days later they’re both walking off my hilltop, they’re 200 yards away and they get ambushed. And they’re lying there wounded. And they’re going to expect I’m going to send Marines up there to get them. They’re just journalists, they’re not Americans….And Marines will die, going to get a couple of journalists.”

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Comments

In the example offered, an American journalist embedding with the Norks ought to tell the Norks upfront that they will serve as spies for the Americans, should US troops be under attack.
Let’s see how far that gets them.

I remember that episode very well.

I wrote a scene in which such a “journalist” in a pinch was advised to call the “journalist embassy”, since he was a citizen of the world and all…

Such an attitude would have resulted in jail time during WWII, but that was a “great patriotic war” supported by the Soviet handlers of a lot of our journalists of the day.

The guy in the subway did exactly what every TV cameraman on earth does.

He wasn’t a card-carrying journalist tho.
They have disdain on anyone trying to do their job.
I remember hearing that a papparazzi took a photo of River Phoenix when he OD’d outside the Viper room in L.A. He later refused to release the photo for publication, even though he was offered huge $$$ to do so. So some of them CAN revert back to be humans again.

Mike Wallace, distinguished Eason Jordan Professor of American Patriotism and Journalistic Ethics.

It’s instructive to recall this frank definition of journalism: “An occupation involving preparing stories that reflect superficial thought and shallow research, with a popular slant and hurried composition, conceived of as exemplifying topical periodical writing as distinguished from scholarly composition.”

Try as they might to claim otherwise, there is nothing “honorable” about being a journalist. It is a commercial occupation. Any personal ethics involved would be in remaining objective in lieu of reflecting the personal bias of the reporter, but that ship sailed long before Mike Wallace arrived on the scene. They are nothing but paid hacks, and do not belong on anyone’s pedestal.

NC Mountain Girl | December 5, 2012 at 1:05 pm

I remember screaming “so why aren’t you ferrying them out!” to the sanctimonious “live from New Orleans…” TV journalist during Hurricane Katrina. They filled the airwaves with images of people stranded by the storm but not once did I see a reporter or cameraman use a boat or chopper that was at their disposal to actually help those in peril. It seemed it was more important for them to raise awareness of how George Bush hated black people.

    Ragspierre in reply to NC Mountain Girl. | December 5, 2012 at 1:26 pm

    Yep. Because “making a difference” only involves groups. Individual people are not of any significance.

    And they don’t really like people in the Collective. Only “humanity” in the abstract.

They all have a greater, higher calling – priests (lower case, all of them, by any other name), lawyers, politicians, teachers (beg pardon, “educators”), artists, journalists – you name it. What none of them seem to understand is that increasingly, they are held in universal contempt, that they are seen as useful idiots by both those using them and those who see them being used. The irony is that in an overrun battlefield situation, a wounded survivor with “press” written on his jacket would be dispatched with utter contempt by the victors. They’re even getting to the military, e.g. “work place violence” and the bearded major Hasan who should have been hung two years ago.

Semper fi, colonel.

BannedbytheGuardian | December 5, 2012 at 5:22 pm

Black War On Asians Takes To Subway.

That is the true real story.

    Juba Doobai! in reply to BannedbytheGuardian. | December 6, 2012 at 1:20 am

    This could be quite so. If you recall, during the ignominious reign of David Dinkins, Prince of New York, after the Crown Heights riot and slaughter of Yankel Rosenbaum, there was an incident in Flatbush, perhaps on Flatbush avenue, in which a Korean grocer ejected a black woman for shoplifting. This resulted in Al Sharpton and his crew, responsible for the deaths of several blacks at Freddie’s in Harlem, coming and marching and generally caterwauling in front of the business place. Sharpton and the other race hustlers demanded that Asians provide jobs for black people, wailed that the Asians were taking over, and vowed to shut the store down.

    It’s a sad day when you’re in a country for a few hundred years, shoplift from a Johnny-come-lately, and demand that the Johnny give you a job instead of you providing a job for the Johnny.

    Anyway, that boycott occasioned a great deal of animus between both communities. Plus you have this, a lot of black Americans eat at the neighborhood Chinese restaurants and are terribly nasty to the people who work there. That’s always a bad idea. Some folks mock the employees native language and just treat them in a piss poor fashion. When you treat them otherwise, you get a noticeably different response from the employees whenever you go in. They’re warm and friendly.

    As for whether the murderer is nuts, I dunno. I read a story that suggested he certainly was not.

    Anyway, BBTG may have something, is all.

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