Weeks like this one that are filled with breaking news offer many opportunities for press critics to do their work, but they can also afford publications’ PR departments opportunities to try out communications strategies on the fly.
Take, for example, the New York Daily News’ replies Wednesday to Joe Pompeo, who questioned the paper about its decision to alter a bloody photo from the bombings. Its first reply was extraordinary: “The Daily News does not comment on its editorial decision-making,” a spokesperson for an organization that holds others accountable told Pompeo. But a later reply from spokesperson Ken Frydman was even more fascinating:
“The Daily News edited that photo out of sensitivity to the victims, the families and the survivors,” he said. “There were far more gory photos that the paper chose not to run, and frankly I think the rest of the media should have been as sensitive as the Daily News.”
Not only was the News justified in altering a photo, it was leading the industry!
Thursday, the New York Post was confronted with questions about why it drew a line between a photo of two young men at the Boston Marathon and news that authorities “have clear video images of two suspects” in the bombings there Monday. The young men, alas, are not these suspects.
“We stand by our story,” Post Editor Col Allan said in a statement:
The image was emailed to law enforcement agencies yesterday afternoon seeking information about these men, as our story reported. We did not identify them as suspects.
Note the difference in tone: Allan’s excuse for this editorial decision is that the Post didn’t explicitly call the men suspects; it merely put their photo on the front page of a newspaper in a major city with the headline “BAG MEN.”
But a forensic examination of the Post’s language in the story accompanying that photo shows the thin slice of daylight in which Allan’s trying to catch some rays:
Meanwhile, officials have identified two potential suspects who were captured on surveillance videos taken shortly before the deadly blasts, law-enforcement sources told The Post yesterday. …
It was not immediately clear if the men in the law-enforcement photos are the same men in the surveillance videos.