Lou Grant was an iconic TV show in the late 1970s starring Ed Asner as the eponymous newspaperman extraordinaire. The fictional L.A. Tribune he worked for employed a typical cast of clich�d characters including the Bright Young Reporter Joe Rossi, the septuagenarian female proprietor Mrs Pynchon (echoing Kay Graham who owned Newsweek and The Washington Post at the time) and the bearded, apparently inarticulate (suggesting he was permanently stoned) staff photographer, who wasn’t considered worthy of a name, so they just called him ‘Animal’. Ho ho. How droll. A mate who’s been a Picture Editor for the past 30 years swears that show lowered his status, and everyone else’s connected with pictures, for up to a decade.
It’s all about pictures now, of course, but Animal’s gone freelance. Thanks to digital he doesn’t even come into the building anymore to see what they do to his shots: cropping, changing, smudging, blending. Never has a computer programme been so aptly named as PhotoShop. With PhotoShop you can conjure up pretty much whatever photograph you want – and then sell it. And the ‘right’ picture can make usually cynical News Editors behave quite irrationally.
Whether that’s what happened, after the nice man at the Daily Mirror told Corporal X or Sergeant Y (or possibly Brigadier Z for that matter, army pay being what it is) just how much loot they could make for some decent-looking pix of the lads seriously misbehaving, we can’t be sure. But regardless of the details concerning shoelaces, guns, hats etc, to my educated eye (yes, that’s right) these shots just look too motionless, too posed, as though the ‘attacker’ is working around the lensman, and not vice versa. In fact it’s bleeding obvious. Good luck Piers. If you ever land another editorship I suggest you hire someone on your picture desk brave enough to disappoint you.
The question of whether a national newspaper should be allowed to go around discrediting its nation on the international stage to quite such a catastrophic degree also deserves an answer. If the only people likely to benefit from this cock-up are the soldiers who flogged the photos and the Muslim spinmeisters bent on creating untold millions of anti-coalition Islamic militants, the Mirror’s editor should consider the Tower a generous option.