You say ''Looting,'' I say ''Finding''

You say ”Looting,” I say ”Finding” (Jerz’s Literacy Weblog)

Two interesting discussions on Flickr, regarding the ethics of captions that accompany stories about the looting in New Orleans. See: “Racism on Flickr.”

It’s certainly worth noting that in one picture, a black an is identified as “looting,” but in a different picture, two other people (initially represented as white, but the woman seems to be Hispanic) are described as “finding” food.

Both these pictures appear on Yahoo!, but it’s ridiculous to accuse Yahoo of racism, since Yahoo! didn’t write the captions. One poster demands, “AND HOW COME THE PERSON WHO TOOK THE PICTURE OF THE BLACK PERSON DOESNT PUT HIS NAME UP THERE?” but obviously didn’t look very closely. (Yahoo gives the photographer’s name as Dave Martin.). The caption is just longer in that picture — the name doesn’t appear in the little frame that Yahoo uses to hold the caption. (Another reason why frames suck.)

Fortunately, someone who knows about such things as news services and photojournalism corrects some of the angry misconceptions.

Here’s one example where the instant-publication culture can cause more trouble than it’s worth.

Update, 05 Sep: Editor and Publisher looked into the matter.

The Associated Press said its policy was clear. “When we see people go into businesses and come out with goods, we call it looting,” said Santiago Lyon, AP’s director of photography. “When we just see them carrying things down the road, we call it carrying items.”

Lyon said the photographer who took Tuesday’s photo, Dave Martin, had seen the man go into the store and take out the items.

As for the other photo, Getty said it stood by its caption and its photographer, Chris Graythen, who says the subjects of his photo were simply picking up items floating by in the dank waters.