By Dan Kennedy • The press, politics, technology, culture and other passions

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Trying to track down an old Gingrich outburst

Newt Gingrich

I had hoped to stir up a little controversy this week over something Newt Gingrich said a long time ago. But unless someone out there in Media Nation has better documentation than I do, I’m afraid I’m going to fall short.

Here’s what I’m talking about. On Friday and Saturday, May 13 and 14, 1994, I was among three reporters from the Boston Phoenix who covered the Republican State Convention in Springfield. (Also on hand were Al Giordano and Bob Keough.) On Saturday, Gingrich, then well on his way to becoming speaker, delivered the keynote address.

I recall sitting in slack-jawed amazement as Gingrich offered some hate-filled words about disease-ridden Haitians invading our shores while Bill Clinton did nothing about it. (The AIDS epidemic seemed to be centered in Haiti in its early days.) Unfortunately, no one wrote it up according to the online archives I searched.

As best as I can tell, neither the Boston Globe nor the Boston Herald bothered to cover Gingrich’s speech. Neither did the Worcester Telegram & Gazette, though it did quote then-congressman Peter Blute, who introduced Gingrich, as saying, “He energized the base of the party to get out there and work hard for the candidates.”

The Springfield Sunday Republican offered up a few soundbites from Gingrich — but nothing on Haiti and AIDS, as the story focused mainly on Gingrich’s praise for then-governor Bill Weld. “What makes Gov. Weld so different is he understands the obligation not to repair it, not to raise taxes to pay for it, not to prop it up, but to replace the welfare state,” the Republican quoted Gingrich as saying.

The Daily Hampshire Gazette of Northampton got a little more incendiary, with this:

Gingrich also attacked congressional Democrats for what he called, “a provision in the crime bill that establishes a racial quota for murderers,” referring to a section seeking to determine if members of one racial group are being convicted for murder more than others.

But alas, still nothing on Haitians.

I thought I must have written something. So last week I visited the Boston Public Library, where I looked up the issue of the Phoenix that was published the Thursday after the convention. And there was not a word about it. Apparently we had made the decision to cover the event for background purposes on the grounds that no one wanted to read what we had to say five days after the fact. Of course, this being 1994, we weren’t blogging the convention. So if it didn’t appear in the paper, well, it didn’t appear.

In an ironic twist — as Gingrich and Mitt Romney battle it out for the Republican presidential nomination — is that one of the stars of the convention was Romney, who was just beginning his campaign against Sen. Ted Kennedy.

It’s possible that I’ve got a notebook in the attic. But finding it would be a huge challenge, and then I’d have to decipher my handwriting from more than 17 years ago. It’s also possible that I did something with it later in the campaign. But I doubt it, and eliminating that possibility would require several hours with microfilm.

So there you have it — a tantalizing tidbit about Gingrich, just out of reach, less than a week before the Iowa caucuses. If anyone remembers this or has a newspaper clipping, I would love to hear from you.

Photo (cc) by Gage Skidmore and republished here under a Creative Commons license. Some rights reserved.

The Globe’s all-out effort in Haiti

American rescue workers pull woman from debris following Haitian earthquake.

In an era of downsized newsrooms and an increased emphasis on local coverage, newspapers like the Boston Globe must pick their spots in covering stories beyond their home base. Thus the Globe’s extensive, ongoing coverage of the Haitian earthquake and its aftermath makes eminent good sense.

As health and science editor Gideon Gil said last night at a presentation by Globe journalists at Northeastern University, the Haiti story is rooted in Boston in two ways: more than 55,000 Haitian-Americans live in the Boston area, making this one of the largest Haitian communities in the country; and Boston’s world-renowned hospitals were (and are) major players in the relief effort.

Speaking and presenting their work were reporter Maria Sacchetti and photographer Bill Greene, who were among the first wave of journalists to arrive in Haiti, and who have focused on the victims; and reporter Stephen Smith and photographer Dina Rudick, who have covered the response by Boston’s medical community.

Both Rudick and Greene shot video as well as still photos. As part of last night’s presentation, they showed two “Haiti Journal” videos (here and here), which serve as a good overview of the Globe’s coverage.

“A story like this in many ways is why you become a journalist,” said Sacchetti.

Greene spoke of the disorientation he experienced after coming back from Haiti and being assigned to cover the pending sale of a $12 million townhouse on Beacon Hill. When one of the people involved in the renovation asked Greene what he thought, he replied, “You don’t want to know what I think. I just came back from Haiti.”

Both Rudick and Smith spoke of the frustration that medical workers experienced when they first arrived in Haiti, as they were forced to camp out on the lawn of the U.S. embassy in Port au Prince, doing nothing, while they waited for supplies and security to be moved into place.

Their reporting, Smith said, reached “the highest levels” of the State and Defense departments, and helped move the relief effort forward.

Rudick called it “one of the most impactful stories I’ve been able to participate in as a journalist.”

Photo by U.S. Navy Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Justin Stumberg via Wikimedia Commons.

Haitian copyright case turns on Twitter’s TOS

In a lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court in New York, Agence France Presse (AFP) claims that it did not violate photojournalist Daniel Morel’s copyright by distributing his images from the scene of the Haitian earthquake because Morel had posted his photos to Twitter, via TwitPic. AFP argues that by posting to Twitter, Morel was bound by Twitter’s terms of service (TOS), and that he therefore granted “a nonexclusive license to use his photographs.” The relevant section in the TOS would appear to be this:

You retain your rights to any Content you submit, post or display on or through the Services. By submitting, posting or displaying Content on or through the Services, you grant us a worldwide, non-exclusive, royalty-free license (with the right to sublicense) to use, copy, reproduce, process, adapt, modify, publish, transmit, display and distribute such Content in any and all media or distribution methods (now known or later developed).

As I reported on Saturday, AFP has sued Morel, charging him with “antagonistic assertion of rights.” I have since received copies of AFP’s complaint (pdf) and Morel’s answer (pdf). It’s a fascinating case, involving the question of how a journalist can transmit his work under difficult conditions without giving up his rights. (Last month I took down one of Morel’s photos from Media Nation after hearing from his lawyer, Barbara Hoffman of New York.)

The AFP suit, filed by attorneys Joshua Kaufman of Washington and Brendan LeMoult of New York, also charges Morel with “commercial defamation.” According to their complaint, Morel, through Hoffman, undermined AFP’s reputation even though the agency took steps to cease distribution of Morel’s work once Hoffman informed it that Morel’s copyright had been infringed. According to AFP’s suit:

Even though it believes it acted under an appropriate license, when AFP was contacted by Mr. Morel’s attorney indicating that he believed the publication of the photographs was a copyright infringement, AFP again acted in good faith to cease publication and distribution of the photographs and notified its subscribers that the photographs should not be published or distributed.

In response to AFP’s eight-page complaint, Hoffman submitted a 66-page rebuttal. I have not had an opportunity to read it in detail. But clearly the heart of AFP’s complaint revolves around Twitter’s TOS. Hoffman writes that Morel found himself working under difficult conditions after the earthquake and trying to find a way to transmit his photos. The manager of the hotel where he was staying helped him set up a Twitter account. She continues: “Mr. Morel had no prior experience
with Twitter, the social networking site and did not read the Terms of Service.”

Nor has any of us, I suspect. So I’m sympathetic to Morel on those grounds. On the other hand, if AFP really did act “in good faith” to halt distribution of Morel’s photos once it had been notified, it is difficult to understand why Morel kept pushing his claim.

Thus Hoffman also includes a long section aimed at proving AFP did not, in fact, act in good faith, taking 13 images from the TwitPic page of a Dominican named Lisandro Suero. Suero, she writes, had “pirated” the pictures, and AFP acted “willfully or with reckless disregard of Mr. Morel’s rights, in its rush to receive credit for the news-breaking photographs to the world” by failing to verify Suero’s bona fides.

Ironically, Morel’s photos are included in Hoffman’s filing, which is a public court document. So if you want to have a look at them, all you have to do is follow the link to her rebuttal, above.

All in all, a pretty interesting case.

A copyright case in which man bites dog

Well, this is certainly interesting. On March 17 I posted an item explaining that, back in January, I had mistakenly used a copyrighted photo of a Haitian earthquake victim taken by photojournalist Daniel Morel. The photo had been presented as an example of citizen journalism, so I grabbed it for a round-up I was writing on that subject.

Now I have learned that Agence France Presse, one of a number of news organizations and websites that used Morel’s work, has sued Morel in U.S. District Court in Manhattan under a tort I have never heard of before — the “antagonistic assertion of rights.”

All I’ve got at the moment is a press release from Morel’s lawyers, Barbara Hoffman and Hilary Gish, and I’ll be running around for the next few days. I’d love to learn more.

Acknowledging a first-rate photojournalist

On Jan. 13 I posted an item on citizen journalists who were on the ground in Haiti following the devastating earthquake there. I put up some links. And I included a harrowing photo of a woman being rescued. I don’t remember where I found the picture, but it was surely from one of several sites I looked at that were uploading work from citizen journalists. I do know that I was ultimately led to the public TwitPic account of the photographer, Daniel Morel.

Yesterday I heard from Morel’s lawyer, Barbara Hoffman, who’s based in New York. It turns out that Morel is a professional photojournalist. She asked that I remove Morel’s photograph and explain what happened. “Mr. Morel’s iconic images were used world wide without his authorization knowingly by news media,” she wrote to me in an e-mail. “He was  never a citizen journalist, and used twitter, given the tragic circumstances to  offer the work for license.”

I’m happy to set the record straight. According to an interview in the New York Times’ online Lens section, Morel is a veteran photojournalist who was born in Haiti in 1951. A longtime photographer for the Associated Press, he is currently a contributor to Corbis Images. Morel told the Times:

I don’t take pictures like other photographers. I don’t take pictures as art. Maybe I put like 15 percent of art in my picture and the rest is history, is documentary. Because if you put too much art, you play with history. You cannot deform history. You have to show it the way it is. You have to show it the way it is.

Morel is a fine photographer and journalist. I recommend the interview and the accompanying slideshow. And here is a story — with a photo of Morel — about an exhibition called “Haiti Eyes” that he presented in New York in 2005.

Chile and earthquake fatigue

I hope I’m not just channeling my own dysfunction, but it seems to me that interest in the Chilean earthquake is pretty limited. There’s plenty of coverage out there. But this is not a story people are talking about, especially in comparison to the Haitian earthquake. The reasons are pretty obvious:

  • Haiti is close to the United States, and Chile is on the other side of the world. Related to that is the fact that Haitian-Americans are a large minority group. Chilean-Americans are not.
  • Media consumers are suffering from earthquake fatigue.
  • Even though the Chilean earthquake was much more powerful, it appears that the death toll and the suffering will be far less than was the case in Haiti.

With that, a few ever-so-slightly non-mainstream sources for you to look at: If you’re not accustomed to heading for the Boston Globe’s Big Picture blog after something like this, well you should be. The New York Times is gathering user-submitted photos. Global Voices Online — which is holding its annual conference in Santiago, Chile, in May — has posted two blog round-ups, here and here. And Boston-based GlobalPost has uploaded a number of stories and photos from the scene and the surrounding area.

And let’s not leave out Boston’s Christian Science Monitor, a leading non-profit source of international news. A story on why Chile seemed so well-prepared, for instance, yields this gem:

Chileans are well versed in what to do during earthquakes, with drills part of every child’s schooling. “Just in case” attitudes, which might seem obsessive in other parts of the world, are the norm here. One woman says she turns off the gas valve every time she leaves the house, just in case a quake strikes when she is out.

The lost children of Haiti

If you see no other video today, you should watch this New York Times report on the difficulties of getting seriously injured children out of Haiti in the aftermath of the child-kidnapping arrests. Not only is it heartbreaking, but it’s a model of how a news organization, unbound by the conventions of television, can do video news better than 99 percent of what you’ll see on the tube.

Faces of the disaster in Haiti

This heart-stopping video/slideshow by the Boston Globe’s Bill Greene and Maria Sacchetti is a vivid illustration of the situation on the ground in Haiti right now.

The Globe has gathered together all of its Haiti coverage here. It includes stories, photos, audio and resources.

A citizen-media aggregator for Haiti

On Wednesday I mentioned Global Voices Online, a Harvard-affiliated service that was rounding up citizen media from Haiti and the Caribbean.

Global Voices has since set up a Haitian Earthquake 2010 section that aggregates citizen-produced content and includes key links to mainstream news organizations — including the Boston Haitian Reporter. It’s got its own RSS feed, so you can plug it into Google Reader.

Here’s a first-hand account of the quake that I found on Global Voices:

Towards 4:45 PM, with our driver, we enter the parking lot of Karibean, Pétion-ville’s big mart. As usual, the way in is slowed by the usual Delmas traffic. While driving up the entry, our Patrol began to dance. I was imagining three or four boys standing on the bumper wanting to swing the car. In front of us, the parking lot ground rocked like the waves at Wahoo Bay. The Karibean building started to dance and in 3 seconds’ time completely tumbled down. A white cloud swept across the parking lot and you could see zombies whitened by dust appearing, in complete panic.

The earthquake is a tragedy whose full dimensions won’t be known for quite some time

Haiti is not the 51st state

In my latest for the Guardian, I take on pundits like Howard Fineman, who are trying to make the ludicrous case that Haiti is President Obama’s Katrina.

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