AP photographer got photo of Obama, Jan Brewer because 'I had my radar up'

msnbc.com | TVNewser

Associated Press photojournalist Haraz Ghanbari says he noticed Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer holding an envelope marked "Mr. President" as she waited to meet President Barack Obama on the tarmac during his visit to her state last week. So Ghanbari stuck around after other photographers went to another area, and he caught an "animated conversation" between the two in which Brewer held her finger up to the president. "I had my radar up. I knew her stance on immigration and his stance on immigration, so I thought this could be interesting. I just stayed there with my camera,” Ghanbari says. He got the only photo, says Washington Assistant Chief of Bureau for Photos J. David Ake, "because he followed the first rule of covering the president, 'Never take your lens off of the man when he is in public.' "

TVNewser says an internal memo at CNN, which dropped the AP's service in 2010, told staff not to use the photo in any way: "Do not even hold up a newspaper in which the photo is published.”

Indeed, anchors on CNN's “Early Start” had to rely on a video that only showed the tops of Obama and Brewer's heads, while anchors narrated:

Zoraida Sambolin: “Tension on the tarmac: President Obama and Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer getting into a verbal confrontation about the president as he arrived in Phoenix on Air Force One. At one point we see Brewer pointing her finger at him.”

Ashleigh Banfield: “It's hard to see because they're behind the limo, but people who were there say that this was awkward.”

Hard to see? Try impossible.

Another story on CNN.com used a photo of Obama walking away from Air Force One, with this caption: “President Obama had an intense encounter with Gov. Jan Brewer before joining his motorcade Wednesday in Arizona.”

AP spokesman Paul Colford noted the dilemma:

It was interesting to see the tough spot CNN was in after the Brewer-Obama exchange on the tarmac. While broadcasters that take AP services showed Ghanbari's exclusive AP photo repeatedly as they reported on the confrontation or interviewed the governor, CNN – with no AP stills or AP video available -- had to rely on lifeless file video for illustration.

Yet another dramatic reminder for CNN of AP's value -- and what they're missing, competitively.

  • Steve Myers

    Steve Myers was the managing editor of Poynter.org until August 2012, when he became the deputy managing editor and senior staff writer for The Lens, a nonprofit investigative news site in New Orleans.


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