Saturday, March 01, 2008

Photo Triggered 'Political Accident'

A photo reporter was fired on a photo which failed to portrait a county leader from a more flattering angle.

County newspaper "Tongzhou Communication" fired its photo reporter after a 'political accident' over a less flattering photo showing the county leader was published. The picture, which shows the county leader reporting to local legislature, was deemed having conveyed a misleading political signal and thus a political accident. The reporter Mr. Wang Lili, who had been the chief photographer of the local newspaper in the past 4 years, was fired hours after the photo made publication.

According to the publisher, Wang took six pictures of the county leader reading the report in the duration of half hour. Because the county leader was reading the notes, Wang couldn't take a picture with the leader's face looking up, the positive gesture. The said picture appeared ok on computer screen when the editor made the paper with some of the leader's eyes showing. In the print edition however, it looks the leader's eyes were closed. Pragmatically, a photo reporter shoots photos, while the text reporter and editors make decision on which photo to pick. In other words, Mr. Wang should not be technically held responsible for the 'accident'.

Tongzhou is a county of Beijing. The county leader who was photoed was Deng Naiping. What made this tragedy more troubling is that it happened in Beijing. Comparing to similar events happened across country, it make it not as easy to make excuse of isolated incident in rural areas while implying officials in major cities to be more qualified than their country side counterparts. While Chinese people often make fun of the shortage of consumer goods in North Korea, they sadly discovered China was not that farther away from its northern neighbor.

The story exploded when it was first reported by the Southern Metropolitan Weekly (SMW), a national media. It could also be tracked back to a blog by narrative (pangbai) on Jan 11, 2008, which was picked up by EastSouthWestNorth on Feb 14, 2008. News media in mainland China was ordered by the State Council News Office to delete the story immediately.

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