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Joe McQuaid's Publisher's Notebook: Photos don't always paint accurate picture


October 14. 2012 6:21PM

It was, above all, a stupid photo.

Associated Press provided clients with a staff photo last week showing a smiling Mitt Romney bending over while a little girl, in back of him, wears a startled look. It looks like the kid is staring at and reacting to the sight of Romney's rump.

Beyond being tasteless (and some people thought it was intended to deliberately make Romney look bad), the photo was just dumb. It did not convey any meaningfully accurate information. In fact, AP later said in an amended caption, the girl was actually reacting to the fact that the presidential candidate would be sitting down right there in front of her.

Yes, the picture was an actual moment in time but it reminded me of when the pause button on the TV DVR happens to catch someone in mid-blink. The person can look pretty stupid, caught in such an instant. But it is not an accurate picture. If it shows anything, it is that a picture isn't always worth a thousand words.

Another not-so-accurate picture was painted of ABC News correspondent Martha Raddatz as she prepared to moderate last Thursday's vice presidential debate.

It was suggested that she would be biased toward Vice President Joe Biden because his boss had attended her wedding two decades ago. Seems that then-student Barack Obama was pretty tight with the bridegroom. (He later named the guy to the FCC.) But, in the intervening 21 years, the couple got divorced and Ms. Raddatz has since remarried.

Local folk may remember Martha Raddatz as a Boston TV news reporter back in the 1980s. She was known then as Martha Bradlee, when she was married to an editor for the Boston Globe who happened to be the son of Washington Post editor Ben Bradlee.

Ok, that's some liberal-leaning baggage in Martha's trunk. But I have never seen any suggestion that her reporting is biased. In fact, she has spent a great deal of time covering the military overseas, in Afghanistan and other tough spots, and from what I have seen she has always been down the middle.

The election debate commission could have picked someone else, no doubt, to avoid the perception of bias. But Raddatz is one tough cookie. And she showed that again last Thursday night. She might have told Biden to stifle himself, but she asked equally tough questions of both him and Paul Ryan.

One accurate picture I saw last week was courtesy of the lady of the house. She bought a framed photo that is worth a lot of words to me. She recognized the golfer Sam Snead, bending down to eye a putt. He is wearing his wide-brimmed hat, a cardigan sweater, and his trademark grin. The picture is a time capsule (Sam would be 100 this year) and the kind of personal art that speaks volumes.

Write to Joe McQuaid at

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