Electric vehicle battery maker A123 filed for bankruptcy on Tuesday. Part of the caption at an Associated Press photo found at a National Geographic report about the “hurdles for clean tech” on Wednesday stated that the company “received a $6 million grant from the Bush administration in 2007 and a $249 million grant from the Obama administration in 2008.”
That’s pretty funny (actually pathetic), given that Obama didn’t take office until January 2009. What’s not funny is which of the two presidents cited in the AP photo’s caption is actually in the photo:
Here it is, or at least the top two-thirds of it:
Imagine that. It’s Bush 43, under whom the company received a pittance that is barely a rounding error. President Obama, whose administration has disbursed 22 times as much money to the company, is nowhere to be found (Politico reported yesterday that the company, according the Energy Department, “has drawn down about $131 million,” but was silent on whether it will be able to continue to receive grant funds after Johnson Controls buys it in bankruptcy.)
Several commenters at the article expressed their displeasure in National Geographic’s photo choice. The magazine’s “miavelle” offered this lame defense in her own comment:
Thanks so much for your comments!
As our photo caption and story state clearly, A123 did obtain a far larger grant of federal dollars from the Obama administration than from the Bush administration.
Many elements go into the choice of photographs to illustrate stories. We felt it was important to do more than show the physical battery, but to show its use–in other words, to show a car. But the few images available from our agencies showing A123′s technology in conjunction with a car were not the technically high-quality photos that we demand. In a political season, sometimes editorial judgments may seem political. But this photo was chosen just as we choose all photos at National Geographic’s web site, on the basis of excellent technical quality and appropriateness to the story.
This doesn’t even pass the stench test, let alone the smell test.
A Google Images search on “A123 Obama 2010” (not in quotes) returns more potential pictures that one can hope to count, many of them surely taken by wire service and other professional photographers which National Geographic surely could therefore have used without compromising its . As far as I can tell, there are two “problems” with those photos. First, Obama appears in a large percentage of them. Second, Energy Secretary Steven Chu appears in a significant number of others.
As to “miavelle’s” contention that they wanted to have a picture “with a car”: “First, I would guess that readers would have wanted to see larger pictures of sample batteries than the tiny ones provided at the article more than a car with a cord coming out of it. Second, given that the Bush photo was taken five years ago, how does National Geographic even know whether or not the photo was staged to make it look like there was a car powered by a battery when that wasn’t really happening?
As article commenter “Kickasset” wrote: “As many others have pointed out, there are numerous other more representative and apolitical photos out there. To run this one is politics – pure politics. Shameful. I, for one, will be canceling my subscription today.”
That seems like a good idea for other subscribers.