AP: ‘Terrible mistake’ to crop Ugandan climate activist out of Thunberg photo
The Associated Press on Monday said that it had made a “terrible mistake” in cropping Ugandan climate activist Vanessa Nakate out of an otherwise all-white photo of young environmental advocates.
The AP initially said Nakate was cropped out of the photo, taken at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, to enable a close-up of Swedish activist Greta Thunberg. It was sent out by an editor who said they were unaware it was cropped from the original.
The cropping sparked backlash, including from Nakate, who said on social media that “it was the first time in my life that I understood the definition of the word ‘racism,’” as well as Thunberg, who has frequently called out the lack of media coverage for her indigenous and non-Western fellow activists, whom she says are the most drastically affected by climate change.
Nakate also blasted calls for her to have stood in the middle of the photo to avoid being cropped out:
Everyone saying that I should position myself in the middle is wrong!
Does an African activist have to stand in the middle just because of fear of being cropped out?
It shouldn’t be like this! pic.twitter.com/PR544GIv7g
— Vanessa Nakate (@vanessa_vash) January 25, 2020
“My hope is that we can learn from this and be a better news organization going forward,” Sally Buzbee, the AP’s executive editor and senior vice president, said Monday. “I realize I need to make clear from the very top, from me, that diversity and inclusion needs to be one of our highest priorities.”
Buzbee also tweeted a personal apology to Nakate:
Vanessa, on behalf of the AP, I want to say how sorry I am that we cropped that photo and removed you from it. It was a mistake that we realize silenced your voice, and we apologize. We will all work hard to learn from this. @vanessa_vash
— Sally Buzbee (@SallyBuzbee) January 26, 2020
She also scheduled three “town hall” meetings Monday so employees of the wire service could discuss issues of racial sensitivity raised by the incident.
“This is a very important issue for the AP, and it’s bigger than a bad mistake on one photo,” said Gary Pruitt, president and CEO of the AP, who attended the first meeting. “Our values are to cover the world — not the white world, but the whole world. And we need to do it.”
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