Monday, April 03, 2006

Scalia photographer barred from working for Archdiocese

The photographer who took the picture of Antonin Scalia flipping off reporters has been blacklisted by the Boston Archdiocese.
Scalia had asked the freelance photographer, Peter Smith, not to publish the photo. Instead, he gave it to the Boston Herald, which put it on its front page on Thursday.

Smith, 51, had freelanced for diocese's The Pilot newspaper for a decade, but he said yesterday, “I did the right thing. I did the ethical thing,” according to the Herald. Smith is also an assistant photojournalism professor at Boston University.

I didn't care about Scalia's Sicilian gesture, which is why I didn't write about it. But this is just silly. The Archdiocese has an absolute right to determine who it will buy pictures from, and cutting ties to a freelancer doesn't have the same legal and ethical baggage as firing an employee. But this is petty with a capital P.

Will it have a chilling effect on future coverage of Scalia? I doubt it, especially with the Herald as a willing alternative market for such images. But overall it doesn't help if reporters and photographers have to worry about jeopardizing existing contracts in order to write about or photograph powerful people. Freelancers should be judged on the quality and reliability of their work for the diocese, not the content of unrelated work.

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