Flickr user dustin3000 uploads two similar news photos that show flood victims in New Orleans wading in chest-deep water. In each, a person appears to be dragging a bag or box or two of food or beverages.
The images were shot by different photographers, and captioned by different photo wire services. The Associated Press caption accompanying the image with a black person says he's just finished "looting" a grocery store. The AFP/Getty Images caption describes lighter skinned people "finding" bread and soda from a grocery store. No stores are open to sell these goods.
Perhaps there's more factual substantiation behind each copywriter's choice of words than we know. But to some, the difference in tone suggests racial bias, implicit or otherwise.
Reader comment: oboreruhito says,
"1.) AP has consistently named all people stealing items as looters.
2.) Some grocery stores had been occupied by police, who were taking food, drinks and essentials and distributing them to people. Then again, some cops were looting outright, as well, and others were trying to stop it all."
Snip from Times-Picayune news story:
Law enforcement efforts to contain the emergency left by Katrina slipped into chaos in parts of New Orleans Tuesday with some police officers and firefighters joining looters in picking stores clean.
At the Wal-Mart on Tchoupitoulas Street, an initial effort to hand out provisions to stranded citizens quickly disintegrated into mass looting. Authorities at the scene said bedlam erupted after the giveaway was announced over the radio.
Reader comment: Amid says,
I'd like to refute the reader comment that AP has consistently named everybody stealing items "looters." This is an AP photo of a white guy "looking through his shopping bag." …coming out of a store with a broken window.
Update: More discussion on DailyKos: Link (thanks, True Blue)
Reader comment: Tiffany B. Brown
Something else to remember about the Associated Press: A lot of what comes out of the AP is from its member news organizations.
Bill Feig (who took this photo), is a photographer for the Baton Rouge Advocate. Dave Martin (who took this AP photo) is an actual AP employee. I don't know how much editing the AP does of cutlines (captions) before they're sent over the wire, but that could explain any inconsistencies in language about looters.