Controversial AP Photo Went On Some News Sites Automatically

By: Joe Strupp The controversial Associated Press photo of a U.S. Marine mortally wounded in Afghanistan -- which most newspapers declined to publish in print or post online -- apparently appeared on some sites without their knowledge.

Newspapers that use an AP-hosted platform on their sites have content and images updated constantly via an automatic feed, according to AP Spokesman Paul Colford.

He said that feed on Friday included a slideshow of photos of Lance Cpl. Joshua Bernard, who died in Afghanistan Aug. 14. The AP released photos of Bernard on Friday, along with a feature story about his life and death.

One photo of Bernard being wounded prior to his death sparked controversy when Pentagon officials strongly criticized its use. Many newspapers chose not to run the image, but ran other images from the gallery, along with the AP story.

But newspapers that used the AP-hosted platform feed also posted the controversial photo, many without knowing it, through a slideshow of the images that ran automatically to their sites. Colford noted that the slideshow feed included a warning that it contained graphic content and an image of a marine being mortally wounded.

At least one paper, the Commercial Appeal of Memphis, complained to AP about the automatic posting after it deliberately chose not to run the photo in print or online.

"We were unaware it was on our site," said John Sale, assistant managing editor/visuals for the Commercial Appeal. "It was upsetting to know that the bat was out of our hands and would give the public perception that we were being hurtful to the families of the fallen marine."

Sale said the image drew attention to the Commercial Appeal after E&P reported that it was on the newspaper's site. A New York Times blog, The Lens, also linked to the site in an item about the AP photos.

"Once we found it, we started asking about it," Sale said.

The newspaper e-mailed AP Sunday about the situation, stating in part: "I don't think our web team knows about it, I know our photography editors do not know about it, and I'm a little embarrassed that unedited pictures of such sensitive scenes are showing up on our website. Particularly since we had a discussion about that picture and decided not to publish."

Colford said AP officials planned to remove the controversial image of Bernard from the slideshow today, but allow editors who still wanted it to request it as part of the package. "The Commercial Appeal's concern is well-taken," Colford said Tuesday. "We were in contact with the Commercial Appeal, which had concerns about what happened."

Other newspapers that ran the slideshow through the automatic feed included The Plain Dealer of Cleveland, the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, Houston Chronicle, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, and Evansville (Ind.) Courier & Press.

"I am a little upset that we did not know about this," said Bill Gugliotta, Plain Dealer director of photography, who said his paper deliberately did not post or publish the controversial photo. "We thought it was too graphic. If AP was going to do this, they should have given us a heads-up."


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