Jul 1 1999

A Mote in Their Eye

Felicity Barringer, the New York Times media reporter (“Week in Review,” 4/25/99), scolded editors for publishing an Agence France Press photo of a corpse in Kosovo, an Albanian refugee killed by a NATO bomb, without adequately warning that the Serbs could have arranged the body for dramatic effect. She quoted a CBS news executive who pointed out that with regard to news put out on our side, “You’re able to challenge and question and dig back and check in with sources.”

The front page of the same “Week in Review” section carried a handsome color photo, also from AFP, taken on our side at a refugee camp in Albania. It was prettily posed: six hands simultaneously spooning soup from a bowl. The Times’ own fashion-food studio couldn’t have done better. But the caption did not hint at a set-up.

No harm done. Neither photo furthers a lie—civilians were killed by American bombs in Kosovo, and refugees are being fed in Albania. But why does one possible setup bother the Times, while another obvious one does not?