Scapegoat Sabrina

By Chindu Sreedharan on March 31, 2008 10:01 am

In which we tell off Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko, check out BBC chief Mark Thompson’s moves, hear out columnist-turned-editor Arianna Huffington, pay homage to journalist Dith Pran, see the other side of Sabrina HarmanBuzz from the web.

LET’S ADMIT IT, most of us think Sabrina Harman is a total freak.

In case the name doesn’t ring an immediate bell, Harman is the centrepiece of the Abu Ghraib prison abuse scandal, the military policegirl who earned herself a court-martial and more by posing with a pile of corpses.

Since the media framed her pictures (pun very much intended), many have reported she was a scapegoat, but none so eloquently as Philip Gourevitch and Errol Morris in this New Yorker piece, Exposure: The woman behind the camera in Abu Ghraib.

Gourevitch and Morris present Harman as a “numbed” being, awkward in her prison role, who did what she did not for kicks but to preserve her sanity in a job that made terrible demands on her.

You get to see Harman in a different light, as a pizza-seller-reservist pulled into a situation she wasn’t trained for, someone who wanted to “substract” herself from the crimes she witnessed routinely by “repositioning … as an outsider, an observer and recorder, shaking her head”.

Insightful. But something tells me the public’s mind is already made up.

Courtesy, the Internet

Bad news for the American newspaper industry: adspending down by 10 per cent.

More bad news: print ads fell more than 11 percent, while online newspaper ad expenditures soared 19 per cent.

Take those together with Eric Alterman‘s indepth piece Out of Print and you get an idea of how bad the news really is.

But it isn’t epitah yet. As Arianna Huffington — she of the interesting experiment called Huffington Post, which taps into citizen journalism remarkably — puts it:

“People love to talk about the death of newspapers, as if it’s a foregone conclusion. I think that’s ridiculous. Traditional media just need to realize that the online world isn’t the enemy. In fact, it’s the thing that will save them, if they fully embrace it.”

Times, Telegraph, you heard the lady.

PS: Try this related Poynter piece by Jonathan Dube, on how a radio station harnessed citizen’s media to make the best of the US presidential polls.

Not kidding

The Beeb’s future is the kids. And that’s straight from the horse’s mouth.

Ever since he learnt a quarter of the 15-to-24-year-olds in Britain do not consume any BBC, Beeb boss Mark Thompson has been determined to net them — even if it meant pouring it down their throats.

His all-out Internet plans are in that direction. Since that particular age group would rather fool around online, Thompson wants to make sure everything the BBC creates is available online.

And there are kids channels among the dozen-plus channels the BBC Worldwide intends to launch in the next year — which will have dedicated web sites, of course.

All of which is good for the kids but ‘bad’ for British newspapers. Seems the BBC’s ‘big digitial push’ is stealing traffic away from them.

Never mind, it’s for the kids. Besides, a little kick in the back never hurt nobody.


The man who survived the killing fields of Cambodia succumbed to cancer at the age of 65.

NYT photojournalist Dith Pran was the subject of the Academy Award-winning film The Killing Fields.

He was captured by the Khmer Rouge after the fall of Phnom Penh in 1975, but lived to work for the NYT again, surviving four years of back-breaking labour and torture through — as Doughlas Martin writes — “nimbleness, guile and sheer desperation”.

Pran escaped to Thailand in 1979, after a 40-mile trek across an expanse with clusters of corpses and skeletal remains of victims — the killing fields, as he dubbed it.

He later moved to the US and founded the Dith Pran Holocaust Awareness Project.

Shut up, scribes

An item from dictatorial Belarus. As reported by Yuras Karmanau of the Associated Press:

Security agents detained at least 16 journalists and searched their houses and offices for material that libel President Alexander Lukashenko.

Not good (and shame on you Lukashenko), but a quick thought in the form of two questions.

Was that Lukashenko behaving like an authoritarian?

Or was he just being an in-power politician?

Happens quite often in ‘democratic’ societies too, if you ask me. A while ago I remember investigative reporter Duncan Campbell telling us how the MI5 took him for a long ride (literally) without quite checking if he was okay with it.

Worse is the Indian Tehelka incident (let’s keep the US out of this, lest we run out of space). After the web site published its Operation West End report, which exposed army anomolies and caused then defence minister George Fernandes to resign, remarkable was the harrasment the elected government of the world’s largest democracy unleashed — in relation, Lukashenko appears a mewing pussycat.

Let’s just say the press has as much freedom as the politicians allow, shall we?

Also read: And papa can’t do a thing

More Media Buzz


Your Thoughts (1 Comment)

April 2nd, 2008 2:49 pm by rp

This really helps. Keep it going.
And do include smaller news updates from other parts of the world, too.

Why we exist

To facilitate knowledge-exchange between media and academia

To enable interaction between and across newspeople and scholars

To comment on issues related to media and the academic study of media

To examine media coverage and academic analysis of key issues

To present political perspectives on media issues

And more...

Our interests

Conflict | Terrorism | Globalisation | Identity Politics | Development | Media Effects | Media Education | Online

Copyright InterJunction. All Rights Reserved.

Advisory panel

Professor Allen Tullos

Emory University

Professor Barry Richards

Bournemouth University

Bertrand Pecquerie

World Editors Forum

C Rammanohar Reddy

Economic and Political Weekly

Kelly Toughill

University of King's College

Professor Steve Jones

University of Illinois-Chicago

Stephen Jukes

Bournemouth University

Professor Gadi Wolfsfeld

Hebrew University of Jerusalem

Copyright InterJunction. All Rights Reserved.