Caption-writers show their colors: The “Loot/Find” debate

This is interesting, really interesting: a letter to Romenesko off of this Boing Boing post notes that two identical pictures from hurricane-ravaged Louisiana featured white people “finding” groceries and a black person “looting” them. Ouch.

We don’t really know if there is more information that we don’t have but offhand it does seem a little telling. Still there is no doubt that there is a blurry area between what could be construed as “looting” and “finding” – on one hand there’s the Jean Valjean-esque taking of food because of absolute need, and on the other there is shooting at people for the sake of scoring TVs, VCRs, jeans and whatever else is being absconded with in the watery streets of New Orleans.

Amid all the stories of death and destruction it’s hit a defiite nerve: witness chatter on Technorati and our own MB boards, plus the immediate follow-up on by an Emerson j-school prof Jerry Lanson on Romenesko. Have to say it, eschewer of blogs though he is, Romenesko is good for tapping into things like this.

Writes Christina Pazzanese: “Should editors, in a rush to publish poignant or startling images, relax their standards or allow personal or regional biases creep into captions and stories?Perhaps these photos will stimulate a media “gut check” as we race to
tell the stories of the thousands who lost their lives and livelihoods.”

It’s an interesting topic, the “gut check” — in the swirl of Katrina reportage on air, on blog and on deadline it’s not surprising that something off-color would emerge with a blurt. We know there is looting; we know there must be finding. The gray area in the middle? Somewhere between black and white.

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