Media Bias Summed Up in Two Photos

Media Bias Summed Up in Two Photos

There was a nice human interest story on the campaign trail yesterday, but the AP found a way to muss it up. You rarely see media bias as blatant as you do in a comparison of the following two photos.

Mitt Romney’s motorcade was passing Fairfield Elementary School in Virginia when the Governor saw kids waiving and decided to make a U-turn and pull over. The kids were excited to meet Romney, according reporters on the scene:

“Are you Mitt Romney?” asked one awed student.

As you can see in this ABC video, Romney shook hands with a long line of 4th and 5th graders and got a big “Thank you” when he was done. Sometime before leaving, a member of his staff took this photo:

Is this a big moment in the race? Of course not. If Romney had kept driving no one would have mentioned it. But it’s nice that Romney pulled over and spent a few minutes with the kids. It humanizes him and makes him even seem sort of likable.

Enter the AP’s Evan Vucci.

Just before the previous image was taken, AP photographer Vucci snapped a shot of Romney mid-crouch. The girl behind him is looking at something in surprise which we can’t see from this angle. But it looks like, well, like she’s staring at his butt:

So instead of a nice moment, which this actually was for the kids and for Mitt Romney, we now have an embarrassing photo guaranteed to make an appearance on Gawker. But not just at Gawker. It was the highlighted photo of the day at ABC. It was the top of the otherwise favorable story at the NY Daily News. It appeared on the websites of local papers around the country.

After some criticism from Newsbusters and others, the AP has now issued a response. Rather than pull the photo, they are adding this to the caption:

presidential candidate, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney poses for
photographs with students of Fairfield Elementary School, Monday, Oct.
8, 2012, in Fairfield, Va. A student, right, reacts as she realizes
Romney will crouch down directly in front of her and her classmates for
the group photo. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

Yes, I think anyone who took a moment to think about it realized that’s what was happening. But that misses the point entirely. This was a gag photo designed to embarrass Romney. The correction doesn’t undo it any more than adding a caption to Jill Greenberg’s photos of John McCain would help them. The AP has completely succeeded in spoiling the nice story with this juvenile, misleading photo. Now they offer a tepid correction and move on to the next hit.