Weegee 2012

Weegee/International Center of Photography

I’ve been itching to see the Weegee exhibit, Murder is My Business, at the International Center of Photography. Weegee, aka Arthur Fellig, made his mark shooting lurid photos that often showed in graphic glory the results of violence.

I doubt that the tabloid editors who published his pictures ever felt the need to justify it later. They just wanted to sell newspapers — and they’d probably laugh if they heard that today we call Weegee’s work art.

Meanwhile, in 2012, the Times Union this week is defending the posting of a video on its website that shows a murder. Many readers were outraged, and in response editor Rex Smith wrote:

“We weigh the first imperative of our ethics code — to seek the truth and report it fully — against the sometimes competing notion that we must minimize the harm that reporting may inevitably cause some people.”

Newspapers may have evolved but the people who crave accounts and pictures of murder and mayhem have not. They seek out the thrill of seeing something sensational. And that’s just human nature.

12 Responses to Weegee 2012

  1. There’s a nice collection of Weegee images at the New Yorker’s Photobooth blog:

    http://www.newyorker.com/online/blogs/photobooth/2012/01/weegee-murder-is-my-business.html

  2. And to Mr. Smith, I say balderdash.

    For all the talk about truth and purity, every newspaperman man knows,deep in his heart, that it’s also about pandering to the lowest common denominator.

    Fires, accidents, murders — they love it all. And no, one story will spike your readership on the web, but what’s more important to look at is the cumulative effect.

    I think I have more respect for thode old time editors. At least they were completely honest about it.

  3. Ah, an example! Look at this photo set in the paper:

    http://www.timesunion.com/local/article/Photos-Man-in-custody-after-foot-chase-3145708.php

    It would absolutely, postively not be newsworthy if there were not pictures. Here! Look! Pictures of the cops arresting somebody! At the time they were first published, there was no information about why they chased him, just that they chased him and arrested him. That’s not sensationalism?

  4. If it bleeds, it leads . . .
    I’d have more respect for T.U. management in so many ways if they’d just admit facts like that, both in terms of their print and online versions . . . it’s their tortured after-the-fact explanations of why something ethically odious (but sound from a business standpoint) is, in fact, somehow noble that made me crazy in dealing with them . . .

  5. All those kids, not one thought it OK to dial 911.

    As for TU, I think of it as Newsday’s mentally-challenged sister.

    • I was a Newsday delivery boy, circa 1977 to 1979 . . . and as dim-bulb dumb as some of their material was (and is), at least they paid me for the work I did for them . . .

      • The TU blogs have been described to me as some sort of grand experiment of community discourse. That may be, but it’s also a place to put advertising. That said, the contributors should get paid something, even if it’s just a small amount of money. Maybe a sliding scale per post, capped at a maximum figure per week. What would be a fair number?

        • Not that “fair” is a concept much understood there, but if it was, then the fair thing to do would be to have the payment based on the amount of advertising revenue that each blogger generated . . . one penny for every ad dollar generated, or something like that.

          I think one outcome of such an approach would be for a lot of the community bloggers to throw in the towel, when they understand clearly how little “exposure” they’re actually getting in exchange for sacrificing rights to their intellectual property . . .

          • Hmmm… I’d be afraid that takes us down the path where everybody is paid by a measurement of their audience — which could stifle writing not deemed popular. That said, in the world of TV, programs with low ratings get cancelled.

          • I would only advocate such an approach for a public portal scenario like this . . . it would basically be token recognition that the work adds value to the enterprise . . . and at least provide SOME small modicum of logic behind the newspaper’s claims to owning things it never actually purchased . . .

      • It is a small world. I had a route for them in Hauppauge in 1976-77. The Pines by the Suffolk Police Station. Seemed like the only place on the Island with hills. The pay was pretty good, tips from customers were very good.

        • I had the Mitchel Field route, south of the railway that transects the base. Two brothers had the route north of the railway . . . I used to hate them on Sunday mornings when I was assembling and hauling my entire load on my bike while their dad drove “sag wagon” for them as they each worked one side of Ellington Avenue . . .

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