Washington Post chooses ‘newsy’ photo that photographer says doesn’t represent Occupy Wall Street protests

Justin Elliott writes that The Washington Post “chose an image of a bearded protester seeming to assault a cop to illustrate a movement that has been overwhelmingly — almost without exception — nonviolent.” The image shows an Occupy Wall Street protester with his arm around a police officer’s neck. Andrew Burton, the freelance photographer who captured the image, tells Elliott that he doesn’t know what sparked the confrontation and that due to the melee he didn’t even know he had captured that image until later. The “vast majority of the protests have been incredibly peaceful,” Burton says. Elliott concurs, aside from a small element who seem intent on provoking confrontations. Washington Post Managing Editor Liz Spayd tells Elliott that the image was “the most original and the most newsy,” and that in general the newspaper’s news stories and photographs have portrayed the protests as “animated but generally peaceful.”

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  • Anonymous

    Now there’s an unimpeachable source – one we can rely on for evenhanded truth-seeking: A “pollster” whose mission has all along been to impugn Obama, who works for Fox News and who writes for the the WSJ opinion page, cited by the Daily Caller. You might as well have just linked to a press release from the Bachmann campaign. 

    Who are you trying to convince with stuff like this? You do realize the audience here is mostly journalists, right? And by the way, do you ever have anything other than clumsy, lunkheaded, simpleminded right-wing propaganda to share with the group? 

  • Anonymous

    Democratic pollster finds some Occupy Wall Street activists believe in violence to achieve their means:

    “Schoen’s polling indicates that the “occupiers” in lower Manhattan have little in common with the vast majority of Americans. “Our research shows clearly that the movement doesn’t represent unemployed America and is not ideologically diverse,” he writes. “Rather, it comprises an unrepresentative segment of the electorate that believes in radical redistribution of wealth, civil disobedience and, in some instances, violence.”

    Read more: http://dailycaller.com/2011/10/18/dem-strategist-party-leaderships-embrace-of-protesters-may-cost-them-the-2012-election/#ixzz1bA3sTcru

  • Anonymous

    Thanks Steve.

    Readers can see the original photo and caption here.

    By the way,  after reading the Salon story and the quotes from the photographer, it wasn’t hard for me to see that the problem was due to a combination of mistakes made by the photographer and his bosses at the AP.

    I should also note that I was an AP stringer in the 80′s and 90′s and covered thousands of assignments for the wire service.

  • http://www.poynter.org Poynter

    @DaGuerre:disqus I just checked the AP’s caption, and it does say what you describe: “In this Friday, Oct. 14, 2011 file photo, a man affiliated with the Occupy Wall Street protests tackles a police officer during a march towards Wall Street in New York, on Friday, Oct. 14, 2011. Around the country, police have chosen different times and different ways to step in, as activists take over public spaces to demand change in Washington and on Wall Street. In some cities, there have been dozens of arrests. In others, none. (AP Photo/Andrew Burton, File)”

    Steve Myers

  • Anonymous

    This is why some people distrust the media.

    A stringer for the AP moves a picture with this caption: “A man affiliated with the Occupy
    Wall Street protests tackles a police officer during a march towards
    Wall Street in New York, on Friday, Oct. 14, 2011.”

    But now the photographer admits he wasn’t “even fully sure what I was taking photos of.”

    He says “I didn’t see the moment I photographed inside my camera – I noticed it later.” He also “learned [later] someone had tackled a police officer” as he was editing his images 

    So he puts two and two together and moves a picture captured in a fraction of a second of a chaotic moment that he doesn’t remember witnessing with a caption that almost certainly had nothing to do with the picture.

    Don’t fault the Washington Post photo editor. Fault the AP for not checking out the veracity of the picture. And fault this obviously inexperienced photographer for fabricating a caption.

  • Anonymous

    What things are you referring to? I’m saying there’s no indication that the OWS protests as a whole have been anything other than overwhelmingly nonviolent, that there’s nothing to indicate that batch arrests are for anything violent (or even that they’re all necessarily righteous busts even for petty crimes). I also find Prokofy’s claim to have personally witnessed cops getting hit to be dubious — if for no other reason than his listed it last, *after* his mentions of people walking on the road rather than the sidewalk. It’s possible that he did, since there are jerks at the protests, but all we have to go on is the assertion.

    By all accounts, the protests have been pretty low on mayhem, given the largeness and number of the crowds, and at least some of the mayhem that has occurred has been instigated by cops.

  • Anonymous

    Are you saying protesters aren’t doing those things?

  • Anonymous

    Right. The cops never arrest anybody without good cause in these kinds of situations. If people are being arrested, they must have done something bad – it’s logic! Just like they never pepper spray people who have already been detained. As for your having witnessed people hitting cops, I guess all we have is your word on that.

  • Anonymous

    Cry me a river. One of them went after a cop. There’s no “seems” about it. I’d hate to be that cop’s nose.

    What’s good for the goose (Tea Party) is good for the gander (OWS).


  • http://secondthoughts.typepad.com/ Prokofy

    But the movement has not been overwhelming non-violent, that’s patently not true. I have attended three events staged by OWS in the last few weeks, and at each and every one of them, significant groups of people, dozens or hundreds strong, deliberately defied police orders, pushed over gates, climbed up on street lights, spilled into the road when told to keep on the sidewalk, and even struck and hit officers. There wouldn’t be 70 arrests here and 70 arrests there unless people were using force, and using “direct action”. They are doing this deliberately; to pretend otherwise is to ignore the obvious roots and springs of this movement.