NBC photojournalist Tony Zambado is receiving praise and derision from industry insiders for his outspoken assessment of the anarchy at the New Orleans convention center:
"There's no support here. There's no foundation. There's no Plan B, Plan A. These people are very desperate. I saw two gentlemen die in front of me because of dehydration. The sanitation was unbelievable. The stench in there, it was unbelievable. Dead people around the walls of the convention center, laying in the middle of the street, in their dying chairs, where they died, right there in their lawn chair.
"They were just covered up. In their wheelchair, covered up. Laying there for dead. Babies, two babies. Dehydrated and died.
I just tell you, I couldn't take it."
Of course journalists aren't supposed to voice opinions - especially those of us with cameras on our shoulders, so its no surprise that Zambado's remarks have sparked a debate at industry watering holes both real and pixelated. A brief sample:
"I don't need someone to tell me how to think or feel in a "news" report. I want the facts. The things he states as facts in the report, such as them not starting riots, no hostility, no plan b or plan a, are just emotional repetition of what he's been told or conjecture. They are things he could not know." - Frank McBride
"I do feel Tony Zambado's first person experience added to the understanding of what was going on during this tragedy. I don't feel "journalism" was compromised because he was no different than any other witness to an event we might interview for a story other than he had video and sound to back up what he was saying." - John "Lensmith" Dumontelle
"Tony Zambado is a hero. His pictures and words conveyed the despairity of the situation at the N.O. convention center. Thanks to him hundreds of lives were saved. If he overstepped his bounds as a journalist... I don't care. He conveyed the gravity of the situation in any way he could. Those people were running out of time. Thanks to his efforts those people finally have food and water today. Thank you Tony." - Fisher
Strong words from those who walk the walk. I myself haven't seen the clip yet (who watches TV anymore?), but I have no real problem with the transcript. As it reads, the piece is what we call a 'Nat Sound Package', an edited collection of soundbites and background noise devoid of narration. These type of reports can be very powerful as undiluted, first-person accounts. Here, Zambado plays the role of interview-ee, he is not the producer of the piece and harbors no responsibility for it's end content. If anyone's journalistic ethics should be called into question, it should be those of Zambado's higher-ups, who sanctioned the airing of an employee's passionate opinion. Personally, I'd like to buy my fellow photog a beer for having the grapes to tell it like it is.
Stroll through a flood shelter full of dying innocents and tell me how YOU feel.