AFP publishes strategy for covering ISIS, states agency will no longer work with freelancers in Syria

[I]f someone travels to Syria and offers us images or information when they return, we will not use it.”
AFP Global News Director Michèle Léridon, Covering the “Islamic State”

Agence France-Presse’s Global News Director Michèle Léridon just published a fascinating article on how the wire service covers the emerging Islamic State (ISIS or ISIL) on AFP’s Correspondent blog. AFP is currently the only international news agency with a bureau in Damascus. Since August 2013, AFP has stopped sending their journalists to rebel-held territories within Syria. The post also says, “we no longer accept work from freelance journalists who travel to places where we ourselves would not venture….[I]f someone travels to Syria and offers us images or information when they return, we will not use it.”

The rest of Léridon’s post details how AFP handles handout pictures from ISIS, AFP’s efforts to find images of ISIS’ victims’ lives before their deaths, and what language to use in coverage of the region. For those of you like me who find media studies interesting, the post is worth reading for the peek it gives behind the curtain of covering one of the most dangerous regions in the world.

After the recent ISIS beheadings of James Foley, Steven Sotloff, and David Haines, there’s been increased awareness of the dangers faced by freelance journalists covering conflicts. Allison Shelley wrote a great Op-Ed for the LA Times about the issue: The dangerous world of freelance journalism. As with much of the other discussion, Shelley’s piece looks at the increasing role freelancers play in covering the world’s news and the lack of resources available to freelancers as compared to the support given staff journalists covering conflict (which we’ve covered previously).

Other publications have published articles recently about the issues, as well: The Washington Post, the BBC, CNN (speaking with Tina Carr, director of the Rory Peck Trust), and NBC News. On the Media also has a good look at how imagery of ISIS arrives in American publications, and Fresh Air’s interview with NYT Baghdad Bureau Chief Tim Arango offers a look at how the New York Times covers the group.

Digiday also has a look at how news startups such as Buzzfeed and Vice have been covering ISIS. Vice is a particularly interesting case because they seem to have gotten the closest access to ISIS in their 5-part series on the group. Vice editors spoke with the Huffington Post about how Vice was able to gain access.

PBS MediaShift also has a great article on the subject of the dangers of freelance journalism in Syria, though it was published in April 2014. Vanity Fair’s piece on the disappearances of Austin Tice and James Foley, published in May 2014, is also worth a read.

And while you’re at it, read Tom A. Peter‘s article in the New Republic: Why I Decided War Reporting Was No Longer Worth the Risk.

Windows on the World – a glimpse inside the World Trade Center in August 2001

Konstantin Petrov - Windows on the World - August 2001
Konstantin Petrov – Windows on the World – August 2001

I never realized it until reading this New Yorker piece, but I have absolutely no idea about what the World Trade Center might have looked like on the inside. The only images that come to mind are of the Twin Towers standing, exploding, falling, or being jumped from. As described in Take Picture, a Talk of the Town piece in this week’s New Yorker, a young Estonian immigrant named Konstantin Petrov worked at Windows on the World, the restaurant at the top of the North Tower of the World Trade Center, and was an avid photographer.

Working the night shift, he’d take pictures with a point-and-shoot in the hallways and offices of the towers and of the banquet halls and dining room sitting empty and ready for the next day’s customers. It’s an odd little piece of photography that fills in a piece of my personal geography that I didn’t even know needed filling. Petrov worked the night of September 10th, and started driving home a little after 8am on the 11th. He noticed some debris as he was leaving, but didn’t know what happened until he’d gotten home. His pictures from inside the towers, some uploaded as late as August 2001, and from after the attack, are available on Petrov’s Fotki site, last updated around 12 years ago. A number of the images were used in a National Geographic documentary, 9/10: The Final Hours. This image seems to be a self-portrait of Petrov.

On the subject of images from inside the World Trade Center, seek out the documentary 9/11 (IMDB) by French filmmakers Jules and Gedeon Naudet and FDNY firefighter James Hanlon. The filmmakers had been following young firefighters in the Engine 7/Ladder 1/Battalion 1 Firehouse on Duane Street in Lower Manhattan for several months; the firehouse was one of the closest to the World Trade Center site. The filmmakers were there gathering footage on the morning of September 11th, and were among the first people on the scene after the first crash. Their footage in the documentary is the only video taken that morning from inside the Twin Towers. That footage, as papers and bodies fall to the ground outside the towers, is chilling.

By the way, Esquire’s article The Falling Man, a modern classic of long-form journalism, is now a fund-raiser for the James Foley Scholarship Fund at Marquette University. Read it now if you haven’t already. And if you have, read it again.

Buy prints to support A Photo A Day and go to GeekFest Sept. 12-14 in Philadelphia

Support APAD by bidding on prints
Support APAD by bidding on prints

Both Matt and I have participated in the A Photo A Day community (APAD) over the years. It’s a wonderful community, run by Melissa Lyttle, of (mostly) photojournalists who look at each others’ work on an email listserv. Now, APAD has become a registered non-profit and will be offering grants to photographers to work on projects. I’m happy to see this development; money for projects is always a good thing. You can help out by bidding on prints from a wide-ranging group of photographers. The auction goes until September 16 and features the work of: Alan Berner, Barbara Davidson, Kendrick Brinson, Matt Eich, Preston Gannaway, Todd Heisler, Ariana Lindquist, Susana Raab, and others. For some of the work available, these are likely the lowest prices you’ll ever see. Check out the auction here.

A Photo A Day
APhotoADay

And while you’re at it, consider going to APAD’s annual GeekFest in Philadelphia Sept. 12 – 14, 2014. It’ll be my first GeekFest, but everything I hear about previous years is that it’s an experience not to be missed. For me, it will be an opportunity to finally meet many photographers around the US whom I’ve only known through email and social media. But even if you aren’t a member of APAD, it should be a great weekend. There’s a full roster of talks and presentations, including Ed Kashi, April Saul, Kainaz Amaria, Sara Lewkowicz, David Maialetti, Holly Andres, J. Kyle Keener, Luanne Dietz, and Vince Musi. Saturday night will also be the book launch of Sol Neelman’s Weird Sports 2.

As you can see from the schedule, it’s a full weekend, and if you buy a ticket this week, it’s only $100 (next week it goes to $125). You can get more details in the GeekFest Philly facebook group.