Return to Transcripts main page



Aired July 13, 2007 - 18:30:00   ET


FIONNUALA SWEENEY, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, I'm Fionnuala Sweeney in London. Welcome to CNN's INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENTS, where we examine how the media are covering the big stories.
First this week, images and war, and capturing moments few will have to experience. It is New Year's Day in 1966. Women and children crouch in a canal as they take cover from fire west of Saigon. They were escorted by U.S. paratroopers through a series of firefights.

Later that year, U.S. Marines flee a deadly crash site after a helicopter is shot down in the demilitarized zone between North and South Vietnam in 1966, 13 people are reported killed.

And a U.S. soldier wears a helmet with the words "War Is Hell" written on it during the Vietnam conflict. Well, those images were taken by photographer Horst Fass, who covered conflicts in Vietnam, Laos, Congo, and Algeria. This shot is of him in the field in the 1960s.

Well, from Vietnam to Iraq, the dark room to the digital age, the way photographers go about getting their images has changed dramatically over the years. Well, here now is Horst Fass. He was awarded a Pulitzer Prize for the images of the Vietnam War, and another 1972 for his coverage of the conflict in Bangladesh.

Also with us is Santiago Lyon, director of photography with the Associated Press. He is responsible for the hundreds of photographers and photo editors who contribute to the organization's global photo report.

Horst Fass, thank you very much, indeed, for joining us. When you look at those images you took back in the 1960s, what strikes you?

HORST FASS, PULITZER PRIZE-WINNING PHOTOJOURNALIST: That they are so old. It is so long ago, and were taken under conditions that we don't know anymore with equipment that very few people can handle.

It is -- flash photography has entered a new age with the digital technology. And about everything was different then than it is today.

SWEENEY: Well, we will get to that in a moment. But if I can ask you, first, what drew you to photography? Did you always know you wanted to be a photographer?

FASS: No. It is less photography than the job of a reporter, of a journalist. Add the photo, add the camera and I became a photojournalist. I could have become a writer too. But the jobs aren't always available, so I became a photographer.

SWEENEY: And did you have any doubts at all about going to Vietnam? I mean, when you look back, do you ever wonder that you found yourself in such dangerous situations at times?

FASS: It wasn't more dangerous than Algeria during the uprising against de Gaulle and his intention to turn Algeria over to the Algerians. It wasn't more dangerous than the Congo in the early phase of the endless civil war.

But for me it was an assignment into an exciting new country. First time in Asia. And I didn't hesitate at all to go with a one-way ticket.

SWEENEY: And in these days in Iraq, journalists often go out embedded with U.S. troops, for example. In those days, in Vietnam, how did you go about finding out about a story and getting access to it?

FASS: On foot, really, on foot. In the first four or five years, I traveled several times a week out to helicopter bases near Saigon in a car, sometimes in a commercial airplane. And I knew most of the helicopter commanders. I knew most of the advisers and Vietnamese commanders. And I just hitched a ride into action.

SWEENEY: And in terms of getting permission, that is all it took. You didn't have to get credentials?

FASS: Your reputation was your permission, really, in these days. And who you knew then to trust you, and knew that you wouldn't be a bother to them and could behave yourself like a soldier. You would arrive with gear. They didn't have to feed you and they didn't put a helmet on you. They knew I had been through this before and I never became a burden, I think.

SWEENEY: And you took some of the most memorable photographs of that war. How did the authorities at the time feel about the publications of those photographs?

FASS: There was reaction from the military which was surprisingly always very loose. They didn't really mind us being out in the field and taking pictures. There was a reaction of the military over in Washington. That was often more severe.

And there were generals tell their views (ph) who our general manager that would come back by telex to Saigon and said, under what circumstances did Fass take this and that picture? There is great objection to it here. There is questioning of his (INAUDIBLE) and so on. I would answer (ph) (INAUDIBLE) and tell them about the circumstances in which I took the photograph. And thank God he always backed me up.

The military generally were very cooperative with me. And I must say I and most photographers were cooperative with them. We didn't fight with them. We didn't argue with them. They had their job. We had our job. And I don't want military men to tell me how to do my job. I didn't tell them their job.

We had a good personal relationship. We were -- for many military officers in Vietnam, the photographer, the newsman was traveling about Vietnam and outside, was a window to the world.

SWEENEY: But because you were a window to the world in many ways, you must have known at times when you took a photograph that it was going to cause some problems in Washington.

FASS: I knew, yes. And it didn't only cause a problem in Washington, it caused a problem with U.S. publishers. We forget up to about '65, the U.S. public allegedly -- or its big publishers, supported -- or the majority supported the Vietnam War.

And here where we were telling week by week that things were not going well. That certain things were handled the wrong way, that the Vietnamese didn't measure up. And so on. That there was torture, there was napalm, a lot of ugly things.

We basically brought the reality to them in the form of photographs which were published by the editors. Well, here comes a publisher and say, what is this again? We are supporting this Vietnam War. And over management of the AP wire -- management of the AP that tried to get to us. But as I said, the then-general manager, president of AP backed us up, once he found that the picture was not arranged, posed, so on.

SWEENEY: Santiago Lyon, management in the sense of Associated Press, is it possible to quantify the contribution that Horst Fass, particularly during Vietnam, might have made to influencing public opinion, if not political opinion in Washington?

SANTIAGO LYON, DIRECTOR OF PHOTOGRAPHY, ASSOCIATED PRESS: Well, I think Horst did a remarkable job during his stay in Vietnam, not only through the pictures that he himself took, but through the network of Vietnamese and foreign photographers who he was in charge of running.

There was an endless stream of pictures that, as Horst mentioned, after about 1965 began to change the public consciousness of what was going on in Vietnam when they began to see it for what it was, sort of a never- ending quagmire.

So his contribution and the contribution of his colleagues was, you know, incredible. Enhanced, of course, by the Associated Press' distribution network reaching tens of thousands of newspapers around the world.

SWEENEY: I mean, a lot of parallels are made from -- between Vietnam and Iraq. Do you see those parallels in terms of photographers on your payroll that are sent there on assignment?

LYON: To a certain extent. But it is different now in the sense that access is much more complicated. And the situation on the ground is very different and quite dangerous. When we send Western photographers into Iraq these days, it is primarily to do embeds or to edit the material of Iraqi photographers.

When our photographers go on embeds with the U.S. military, they sign ground rules that can be rather restrictive in terms of the transmission of photographs of dead or wounded soldiers. I think the military is very aware of the power of the media and the power of the still image. And as a result, they try and control our access.

For our Iraqi photographers who are covering the day to day scene on the ground in Iraq, it is an awful job in some senses because everybody turns on them. The U.S. military turn on them because they are suspicious about the speed with which they arrive on the scene, being good journalists as they are.

The Iraqi authorities turn on them because they don't want these images to be necessarily shown to the world. In fact, there were recent rulings by the Iraqi authorities that photographs could not be made of the aftermaths of car bombs, et cetera.

And of course, the general public often turn on -- the Iraqi public often turn on our photographers because they are angry and frustrated about the terrible carnage and scenes that happen every day in that country.

SWEENEY: Horst Fass, would you -- if you had to do it again, would you go to Iraq?

FASS: It is very difficult to go back in time. Physically I couldn't do it. So that is enough to answer. I couldn't. But as I said, from getting involved, oh yes, I mean, once a journalist and always a journalist. So I wouldn't mind today to go back and work with these young people that are there, maybe also warn them about the problems and dangers.

SWEENEY: Well, I mean, you have spoken about Vietnam, about how you have had -- you had a wonderful apartment and servants and, of course, it was the '60s, and it was a time of great stress for many, and there was a certain amount of decadence, to put it mildly in and around the scenario in Vietnam.

And of course, in Iraq today, people are fairly much holed up in one place. They can't really travel far. If they do, it is not for very long. So I mean, that must have a huge impact on the freedom of license of an artist such as a photojournalist.

FASS: I wouldn't call it decadence. It was culture. Iraq is just an awful, awful assignment. The people that you -- that they are against try to cut your head off. The Americans shoot at you and don't talk to you and censor you and treat you generally like dirt. And the conditions which are -- which you have to engage in and the pressure that is on the photographer to suppress his pictures are ridiculous. They are just the worst in any time, including the big war.

SWEENEY: I want to draw your attention to this book which come out by the Associated Press. "Breaking News," it is called. And it chronicles basically down through the years the work that AP has done and compiled by it photojournalists and journalists.

You know, as we look ahead over into the next 10 years, I mean, what do you envisage, again, speaking to your role as a manager, of the challenges that you're going to face and for your photojournalists in the field?

LYON: Well, I think the thing that has been changing the face of reporting the world over has been technology. The new media that have evolved in the last 15, 20 years, the Internet, satellite delivery, broadband technology. We have a constant stream of news, of content, photographs, text, video, graphics, audio, multimedia coming out 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year.

And I think that that flow of content, flow of reporting, flow of witnessing what is going on in the world is likely to get faster and broader and reach more people as the technology spreads into the developing world.

SWEENEY: And of course, it actually makes many people think the ease of the technology that they too can be a photojournalist or a photographer.

FASS: I would like to add to this there is more quantity, there is more speed, there is more everything. But there aren't more readers. It seems to today that there is a large crowd out there that never reads, that never thinks, that just wanders along and wants to see pictures of Paris Hilton.

A sometime ridiculous world out there. And the photographers of The New York Times and the AP and Reuters (INAUDIBLE) that risk their lives, for what do they risk their lives? For these young people that play games on the Internet? No.

Content is important is all of this reporting. And people have to appreciate the content, be interested in the content. And the real challenge of the future is to keep anybody interested in content and quality and discussion.

When you think of that people don't read newspapers anymore, they are the voters of tomorrow. They are the voters of today, where is it all going? In my days, one picture would cause an enormous discussion, would a bit of uproar with the right-wing publishers, would cause support of the anti-war, would cause all kinds of (INAUDIBLE) in Britain and in France.

But it caused movement, it caused discussion, it caused something. Today much of these wonderful photos go into the world of Internet, some may disappear somewhere up there. So the content is really the most important thing.

And we had content in Vietnam, no question, (INAUDIBLE) chose us. And the AP reporters I see today have just as much and more content. What is lacking are the people appreciating and reading it.

SWEENEY: Well, let's hope that changes. We have to leave it on that note. But thank you very much, indeed, Horst Fass, Santiago Lyon for joining us.

LYON: Thank you.

Up next on INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENTS, correspondent versus filmmaker, Michael Moore takes on CNN over his new documentary, "Sicko." That story after the break.


SWEENEY: Welcome back. He is no stranger to controversy, filmmaker Michael Moore has been making the headlines with his new movie on the American health care system, "Sicko."

This week, an appearance on CNN's "THE SITUATION ROOM" raised some eyebrows. Moore spoke to Wolf Blitzer. Immediately after the program, ran a background report disputing some facts in his film. Here is an edited part of the exchange.


MICHAEL MOORE, DIRECTOR, "SICKO": You are the ones who are fudging the facts. You fudged the facts to the American people now for I don't know how long about this issue, about the war.

And I'm just curious when are you going to just stand there and apologize to the American people for not bringing the truth to them that isn't sponsored by some major corporation?

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: And I don't know if you are familiar with Dr. Sanjay Gupta's record, but I would stack up his record on medical issues with virtually anyone in the business.

MOORE: All right. So when I -- when I now put on my Web site, as I will do tonight, how his facts were wrong about the $7,000 that we spend, it is actually -- I have read one report now, it is even more than $7,000 that we spend per person each year in this country. I'm going to put the real facts up there on my Web site so people can see what he said was absolutely wrong.

BLITZER: Well, if we get that confirmed, obviously, we will correct the record. Sanjay -- but I'm just saying...

MOORE: Oh, you will? Good.

BLITZER: Obviously, Sanjay Gupta.

MOORE: You will be getting it.

BLITZER: . is not only a doctor and a neurosurgeon, but he is also an excellent, excellent journalist. Look, I saw the film, and it is a powerful, powerful ...

MOORE: Yes, I saw Dr. Sanjay Gupta over there embedded with the troops at the beginning of the war. He and the others of you in the mainstream media refused to ask our leaders the hard questions and demand the honest answers. And that's why we are in this war. We are in the fifth year of this war because you and CNN, Dr. Gupta, you didn't do your jobs back then and now here we are in this mess.

What if you had actually done the job on that? That is why anybody who hears anything he anything of what you say now about universal health care should question what you are saying, what you are putting out there. You didn't do the job for us with the war. You are not doing it with this issue. And I just -- I just wonder when the American people are going to turn off their TV sets and quit listening to this stuff.


SWEENEY: Well, that prompted a response from CNN's chief medical correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, who prepared that background report. He acknowledged he did get one thing wrong.


DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: There was a lot of stuff by Michael, quite frankly, lots of numbers thrown around. And it can get admittedly somewhat confusing. Now, we spent a lot of time on a fact- check piece about "Sicko" and we are comfortable with what we presented except for one number where I made a mistake.

I misquoted Michael with regards to the per capita spending on health care in Cuba. Now, he said they spend $251 per person. I misquoted him as saying a $25. And that was an error of transcribing the number down incorrectly.

And I want to do this because as a journalist and a doctor, the facts are extremely important to me. So I wanted to correct that for you now.


SWEENEY: The debate didn't stop there. The two faced off on CNN's "LARRY KING LIVE."


LARRY KING, HOST, "LARRY KING LIVE": Dr. Gupta, did you like the movie?

GUPTA: I thought it was a good movie. And I wanted to say that. And I think it -- no, listen, I think it strikes at this irrefutable fact that just with about every American that you speak to, Michael, or that I have spoken to, is unhappy with our health care system. It is broken. We get it. And the fact that you try and, you know, peg me or anybody else with somehow being responsible or not fixing it in some way, I think, is ludicrous.

I thought it was a good move because you're going to raise awareness about this very important issue. People don't.

KING: That is what I didn't understand. Why, Michael, did you get so mad? I thought that report was kind of balanced, and in the end, he agreed with you.

MOORE: Yes. In the end.

KING: Why did you get so mad?

MOORE: . he said the facts were fudged and -- well, he said the facts were fudged. That is a lie.

KING: Some of the facts, he said.

MOORE: And so, anyone who speaks a lie -- no, none of the -- well, none of facts are fudged and it is all -- I will give you -- this is a good example, Larry. And I asked you before we went on if your producer could put up the slides, because he said that we didn't point out that Cuba was number 39.

It is right there in the movie, right there on the screen. You can see Cuba is 39. And when he ran his report, anybody who TiVoed it can re- run it now, and you can see that they've covered up -- the CNN logos have covered up Cuba as number 39.

It is right there and he is just not telling the truth.


SWEENEY: Filmmaker Michael Moore and CNN's Dr. Sanjay Gupta on "LARRY KING LIVE." Well, still to come on INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENTS, getting too close to a source, that has cost one reporter in Chicago her job, and raised questions about journalists' ethics. That story when we return.


SWEENEY: Welcome back. Journalists' ethics are in the spotlight in the United States after a local television reporter in Chicago was fired because of the way she went about her job. The case has raised questions about the relationships between reporters and their sources.

Keith Oppenheim has the story.


KEITH OPPENHEIM, CNN CORRESPONDENT, (voice over): For nearly 11 years, Amy Jacobson has been a star reporter for the local NBC station in Chicago.

PHIL ROSENTHAL, THE CHICAGO TRIBUNE: Her reputation is, do what it takes to get the story.

OPPENHEIM: Jacobson went to the home of Craig Stebic, the estranged husband of Lisa Stebic, a suburban mom who has been missing for more than two months.

AMY JACOBSON, FORMER WMAQ-TV REPORTER: And when I'm on a story, I don't want to get beat.

OPPENHEIM (on camera): Jacobson told WGN Radio she was invited to the home by Craig Stebic's sister. And while it might sound a bit odd, she came there with her two children.

JACOBSON: We don't have a baby-sitter on Fridays, because that's my day off, and, you know, it was a chance for me to work on a story and also be a mother, because another mother was there with her children.

OPPENHEIM (voice-over): What Jacobson didn't know was, there was a video camera nearby, which captured her in Stebic's home wearing a two- piece bathing suit and wrapped in a towel. The videotape was obtained and aired by the local CBS station. Jacobson was fired.

JACOBSON: I know that I made a horrible mistake. I understand that. But a fireable mistake? I don't think so. Nothing improper happened.

OPPENHEIM: Still, the story raised questions about the relationships between reporters and sources. In Los Angeles, newscaster Mirthala Salinas is under scrutiny after having an affair with a newsmaker on her beat, L.A.'s mayor, Antonio Villaraigosa.

Phil Rosenthal, media critic at The Chicago Tribune, says the public is more aware reporters and sources get cozy.

ROSENTHAL: If you get too close, you know, you may be -- your ability to do your job may also be compromised in some ways. And I think people are looking at that with sort of a new set of open eyes.

OPPENHEIM: In the end, the tale of Amy Jacobson may make all reporters think how close they get to their sources.

Keith Oppenheim, CNN, Chicago.


SWEENEY: And that is all for this edition of INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENTS. Tune in again next time for another look at how the media are handling the big issues. I'm Fionnuala Sweeney, thanks for joining us.