Suspended p. 23

By: M.L. Stein L.A. Times staffer faces disciplinary action for
allegedly staging a photo; photographer denies faking it sp.

A VETERAN LOS Angeles Times photographer was suspended for seven days and may face other disciplinary action for allegedly staging a photo that was published in newspapers throughout the nation.
Shot during Southern California's outbreak of wildfires in October, the photo by Mike Meadows shows a weary firefighter dousing himself with water from the swimming pool of a burning house.
Meadows denied faking the photo while acknowledging reports that he was suspended for a week and told that on his return, he was to report to personnel for another job outside the photography department.
However, in an interview Feb. 4, Meadows said Times editor Shelby Coffey III had informed him that "he wanted to hear my side of the story."
No date for the meeting had been set, the photographer added.
"I want my job back," Meadows said. "What was done to me was unwarranted. This has been blown way out of proportion."
Meadows said there were circumstances in connection with the photo that he could not discuss at the time.
Larry Armstrong, Times director of photography, said he received word that the photo was posed while it was being prepared for a contest.
Subsequently, the Times published a "For the Record" box that said, "A photograph showing a firefighter cooling himself from a swimming pool during the October 1993 Altadena fires resulted from a photographer's request to the firefighter, Times editors have determined. Staging a news photograph is contrary to Times practice. The Times regrets the error."
Earlier, the Associated Press had sent a "Picture Kill" to its bureaus about the photo, saying the Times reported that the photo had been posed.
Armstrong said the firefighter in the photo confirmed that the shot "had been created."
"This was bad judgment on the part of the photographer," Armstrong said. "If I have anything to say about it, it will never happen again."
A Times public relations spokeswoman said, "We do not stage news photos."
She refused to discuss the paper's action against Meadows, describing the incident as a "personnel matter."
Coffey made a similar statement but said he might have more to say later.
Meadows, 52, began working at the Times as a dishwasher in the cafeteria after he graduated from high school. He later became a courier, delivering advertising proofs and corrections for the paper.
"I became interested in photography, bought a Pentax Spotmatic and began shooting accidents and other things I saw on my deliveries," he recalled.
The Times, which had been buying his free-lance photos, hired him as a full-time staff photographer after he got exclusive photos of a bomb blast in the Pan American Airways terminal in 1974.
"That was my big break," Meadows said. "Everybody was running out of the building and I ran in and started shooting."


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