Thursday, April 03, 2003

Making sense of a shooter's career-ending misstep. All I know about former Boston Herald photographer Brian Walski is that he's got a reputation as a good journalist and a good guy. So the news that he had been fired by the Los Angeles Times for altering a photo in Iraq was shocking.

Romenesko has both a Wall Street Journal story on Walski's demise and a link to to the LA Times that shows two photos taken by Walski and the fake that he Photoshop'd together out of the two images.

What's so mind-boggling about this is that he absolutely didn't need to do it. Not that it's ever necessary to do such an unethical thing, but in this case the improvement was so minimal that it's hard to imagine what had entered his head in the first place.

Here's a good piece by Kenny Irby at on how the scandal unfolded.

The best commentary I've seen, though, falls victim to the Boston Herald's new policy of charging for its columnists. Peter Gelzinis, a former colleague of Walski's, writes with real insight and humanity about what happened to a person he had always respected. Together, Walski and Gelzinis had reported from such places as Calcutta (for Mother Teresa's funeral) and earthquakes in San Francisco and Los Angeles. Walski had also covered Gulf War I, Somalia, Northern Ireland, Pakistan, and other hot spots.

Writes Gelzinis:

If there was a hint of an explanation, perhaps it was there in the e-mail Walski sent to the Herald's photo chief, Jim Mahoney, just before the end. Brian had been covering the war as a "unilateral," essentially traveling on his own.

"Don't know how much longer I can last here," he wrote, "maybe a couple of more weeks."

If you want to read Gelzinis's entire column, go here.

When celebrity columnists and TV people make ethical fools of themselves, they often resurface -- sometimes within hours (right, Peter Arnett?) -- because there's always another media organization farther down the food chain that's willing to take a chance on someone with a name.

Photographers, unfortunately, are the unsung heroes of journalism, and the "unsung" part is going to make it awfully difficult for Walski to land another newspaper job. But assuming this is a one-time transgression, I hope someone is willing to give him another chance.

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