Monday, October 3, 2011

Media Matters: Long Island Newsday photographer - EPIC FAIL

Long Island Newsday photographer gives new meaning to 'in your face'!

On Saturday, I wrote about a Memorial dedication happening in Floral Park on Long Island. This was a solemn ceremony, to dedicate steel from the World Trade Center terrorists attacks on 9/11. The dedication was attended by Floral Park Fire Department, local politicians and citizenry - and oh yes, the mainstream media.

By all accounts, including Newsday's, it was indeed a solemn ceremony. From Newsday:

9/11 memorial dedicated in Floral Park
Ex-Chief Frank Cantreva places a flower down onto

Photo credit: Steve Pfost | Ex-Chief Frank Cantreva places a flower down onto the memorial. The community of Floral Park dedicated its 9/11 memorial to the eleven residents who died ten years ago at the World Trade Center. (Oct. 1, 2011)

Bagpipes played as the color guard marched through the center of the village. In the distance, a church bell tolled.

Many on the lawn of Floral Park's village hall yesterday morning stood in awe of the 19-foot-high twisted steel beam dedicated in memory of the 11 residents who perished in the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

"It is symbolic of the confusion, torment, and yes, the agony," Floral Park Mayor Thomas Tweedy told the 75 people who attended the hourlong ceremony. "It is more than a memorial. It is a work of art."

The beam rises from a 12-sided platform of black granite and stone. The names of the victims are inscribed on all but one side that serves as a step for people to walk up and touch the rusted hunk of metal, angled and distressed from the collapse of the Twin Towers.

The ceremony started with a fire department ladder truck slowly driving away, pulling up a large American flag that had veiled the front of the memorial....

So far so good, and you can read the rest of their coverage here. Suitably respectful, and a factual reporting of the event. They even had a gallery of pictures, which included this one of the Fire Department:

The Floral Park Vounteer Fire Department stands guard at the start of the ceremony. (Oct.1, 2011) Photo Credit: by Steve Pfost (More pictures here)

A picture NOT included in this gallery, but which was in their sidebar, is this one:

This is Ken and Diane Fairben, parents of Keith, whose picture has been on my sidebar here for a long time. (Full disclosure for any casual readers here: I am close friends with this family. )

Ken and Diane attended this Memorial dedication, since their son Keith's name is one of those engraved there. As the picture shows, Ken is also a member of the Floral Park Fire department, and is in full official uniform.

Ken is also a husband and father. This picture of Ken comforting Diane, who is obviously overcome with emotion, was taken by an unidentified photographer, and on the face of it, appears to add context to the story: confirms that yes, this was an emotional day, especially for those who lost loved ones on 9/11.

However - and this is where I have a HUGE problem - Newsday didn't take just this one picture from a respectful distance of Ken and Diane.

This photographer, who I have been unable to identify, got on the ground below Ken and Diane - with mere inches separating him from them - and took not just this one photo of what is obviously a private, intimate moment between husband and wife, but kept clicking away, and took at least 30 or 40 more. Hmmmmmmm, have to ask: how many pictures does anyone need to capture such grief?

I know about this 'in your face' photographer because I spoke to not only Diane, but also a longtime friend of Diane and Ken's. Janet, who is also a fire chief's wife, told me that Ken and Diane were so wrapped in their own concerns, they were totally unaware of this predator photographer crawling so close at their feet.

Janet challenged this camera hack, and told him in no uncertain terms what she thought of his behaviour.

Even while she is telling him that 'you ought to be ashamed of yourself, you disgusting POS. You are lucky nobody has killed you yet!' this 'reporter' kept right on clicking pictures, invading what was obviously a private moment.

Yes, it was in a public space, and yes, at 'j' school it is taught that anything that happens in a public space is fair game for any news reporter, BUT surely there has to be some spark of human decency that stands back from such cruel intrusion on personal grief.

As Janet also told me: If he had taken just one or two pictures, and walked away, I would have been okay with that. But no, he kept taking more and more, and even as I told him what I thought of him, he ignored me. To see Kenny and Diane, it was heartbreaking. They didn't even realize he was there, literally at their feet, all for the sake of taking pictures to show this private moment.

Sadly, we know all too well that the msm comprises mostly of dregs who think it is their right to document every devastating, grief-stricken moment for the 'sake of a story.' This POS is merely another in a long line of so called 'journalists' who see nothing wrong with imposing themselves into what is so patently a private moment. Rude, ignorant, despicable, are just a few of the words that spring to mind..

We all know the cliche 'one picture is worth a thousand words,' and in this case yes, one picture does indeed capture the impact of this event; an event that was simultaneously both universal, and so terribly personal in its impact. But therein lies the truth: ONE picture. One picture would, as Janet told me, have been more than enough to share with Newsday readers that yes, an event such as this was very emotional.

I cannot fathom what was going on in this photographer's mind as he preyed on this couple's grief. Oh I totally 'get' that we all need to be aware of - and never forget - the personal impact of such hugely horrific acts as 9/11. I get it. I also 'get' that the msm pays their employees to 'get out there and tell the story.' All well and good. However, I will never, ever, accept that what this photographer did to Diane and Ken Fairben on this day added anything to the reporting of this event.

I will never accept that ANY msm employee has the right - no, not even under protected freedom of speech laws - to intrude upon such a personal moment as this photographer did to Diane and Ken.

Maybe he didn't have a telescopic lens and therefore felt he had to be in their faces this way? I don't know, but even with a telescopic lens, there is no need, no excuse to keep clicking away as he crouched at their feet. None!

Long Island Newsday should rethink their protocols/instructions to their employees, when sending them out to these events. Yes, it is the bread and butter - the livelihood - of msm, to document community events. But yes, it is also the responsibility, the imperative, for ALL members of the msm to show better judgement, RESPECT, of those members of the public whose participation in such public events, is the msm's bread and butter. The msm need to attend to their own bottom line ($$$) should never override any participants' rights to privacy.

Over the years I have had many discussions on what is 'fair game' for the media to cover. I am well aware and know all the theoretical laws behind the media being allowed to stalk and harass private citizens. In all fairness, I should tell that Janet also told me that Channel 12 was also covering the dedication, in a professional manner. Diane also told me of being approached as she was leaving the dedication by someone she presumed was a reporter. Apparently this reporter was very respectful towards Diane, as he asked her for her name, and who the man was that she had been seen hugging.

Frankly though, any law most definitely is an ass if it gives carte blanche to photographers such as this to demonstrate such ignorance, such lack of human decency. (As I told Janet: this guy is really lucky I was unable to be there. The headlines might have been very different!)

Long Island Newsday photographer: EPIC FAIL.


Anonymous said...

I am so sorry this happened to these parents who were, justifiably, emotional on this day and had every right to comfort each other without media intrusion. Can't really tell you exactly what I'm thinking or I will be banned from your respectable site. Prayers for the Fairbens and other families whose sense of loss is endless.

Steve Pfost said...

I would like to post a comment being that I am the photographer who took the photograph of Mr. and Mrs. Fairben featured in your blog, on and in Newsday. I happened to randomly stumble upon your blog by accident after a search and am completely appalled at what is written, since it is almost 100% fiction, filled with inaccuracies, and nonsense.
Let me start off by saying I take my job VERY VERY SERIOUSLY. I am not one of these adrenaline junkie disrespectful photographers who want just the news and aren't concerned with a subjects personal feelings. (Which I might add no one on the Newsday photo staff is like that) I was brought up through a very respected photojournalism program which I studied four years and in fact wrote my final paper on the ethics of photojournalism. If you knew me, the way I shoot, and the way I approach and capture not only a moment but subject you may think differently before spreading complete and utter lies onto the web.
My job is to respectfully capture moments both intimate and extraordinary in order to tell the story of the subject. That day was like any other 9/11 memorial I had covered and in fact any other truly intimate story I have followed. Whether it be public or private my job was and still is to capture emotion.
After the ceremony ended I began looking for that emotion that told what this day was all about and found it with Mr. and Mrs. Fairben. after taking NINE, again NINE, and once more NINE (9) frames, for those like yourself who aren't up on the business, frames are images taken, I stopped and let the couple be. I have never since my first year or schooling taken anywhere near 30 or 40 frames in a moment like that. THAT is not the way I shoot. I was not in their face, I was not obtrusive, or obstructive. I was being completely respectful and doing my job. And to answer your question "how many pictures does anyone need to capture such grief?" no more than what I did, and anyone who tells you different isn't a photojournalist.

Steve Pfost said...

Now I will also tell you that that moment only lasted less than a minute as per my metadata. And to "prey" like a "Predator" crawling so close to their feet" is absolutely absurd, not only because I remember how I shot the image but because at the angle the images are shot any one who knows the slightest bit about photography can tell i am not on the ground let alone at their feet.
Now here's the best part, In the 45 seconds to a minute that I was there no one, NOT A SINGLE PERSON, had come up to me and spoke to me, or as you had written it, threatened me at all ('you ought to be ashamed of yourself, you disgusting POS. You are lucky nobody has killed you yet!' is complete fiction!). Oh may I also add I too am a 4th generation volunteer firefighter and was directly affected by September 11th
Now something that isn't written was that I had spoken to both Diane and Keith Sr. separately after photographing them and neither had any gripes of any kind. As far as your friend Janet if she had a problem she could have come to me and said something, however ALL of this just validates that what is written in this nonsense blog is, well, complete and utter fiction, filled with inaccuracies. I've sat through harsh harsh critiques of my work by my professor who is a four time Pulitzer winner, and I want to make this clear that I am not complaining because you thought the photograph was bad. I am justifying my job, my profession in which I strive everyday to tell stories through photographs RESPECTFULLY.
What's funny is that you speak of respect this entire blog when you here are the one being completely dishonest, and disrespectful with a subject, an event, which you hadn't witnessed firsthand and a practice of which you have NO experience with.
Now I am writing this comment at the same time I am scrolling through the blog post. I will end with this, I was the only photographer from Newsday, and any major news outlet (from my knowledge) covering the dedication and was the only one who as far as I know, (Unless there was another photographer on the other side of the Fairbens)capturing their moment. This is my image and I stand by it and the respect I gave the Fairbens and the moment. I will let you know that at the end of your post you mention "Diane also told me of being approached as she was leaving the dedication by someone she presumed was a reporter. Apparently this reporter was very respectful towards Diane, as he asked her for her name, and who the man was that she had been seen hugging." I WAS THE "REPORTER" SHE SPEAKS ABOUT! So just to make a point get your FACTS STRAIGHT before pointing fingers, making threats, and posting fictional inaccuracies onto the internet.

Thank You.