Anchor Lisa Mullins speaks with Tom Mucha, editor of the online news site, Global Post, about how Global Post obtained videos of the moments after Muammar Gadafi’s capture and the brutal actions that followed – and why Global Post decided to publish the images.
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Lisa Mullins: As the Protest against the Assad regime continues in Syria, the people in Libya are taking the first steps toward a post Gaddafi future. But they are also distracted by lingering questions about how Muammar Gaddafi was killed last week. The interim government says the opposed dictator died in crossfire after capture. The chief investigator for human rights watch in Libya says Gaddafi was illegally executed by the rebels who found him. Videos from cell phones clearly show brutal treatment of Gaddafi immediately after his capture. Many of those video were located and published by the online news site Global Post. Tom Mucha is Editor at Global Post, he’s in Boston. How did you get your hands on these videos Tom?
Tom Mucha: Well we got our hands on these videos through our correspondent on the ground insert, Tracy Shelton, who arrived on the scene moments after the actual event happened. She procured these video sources from the actual rebels who were there on the scene.
Mullins: From the rebels who shot them themselves?
Mucha: Correct, mobile phone video footage that the rebels shot themselves.
Mullins: When they came to you did they have to be authenticated?
Mucha: Yes, we very much counted on the reporting instincts in town of our correspondents on the ground to verify this information and she did that by interviewing many of the rebels who were there on the scene.
Mullins: And then what happens, Tom, in a case like this? First describe the videos because the reason we are talking to you is because the videos are so graphic and there are many news organizations that have issued cautions about how much should be used or can be used. What was the process when you saw these videos? And tell us what these videos contain.
Mucha: It was the earliest known footage of Gaddafi being pulled from his hiding place and being captured by the rebels so when we had this information we can be in a meeting of our most senior staff at Global Post and carefully examine what we had in our possession. And it became very clear to us that this was clearly news, particularly as the international community was demanding formal investigations about what happened and the president of Libya’s National Transitional Council was claiming that Gaddafi was killed by his own supporters. So when you have conflicting accounts it’s the role of journalism to present the facts as we collect them. So, our decision making process was to run the videos with ample warnings throughout about the graphic nature of the content.
Mullins: This was when they were mocking him, they were physically attacking him and in one case it appears that he is being sodomized as well with some kind of a stick or a knife. When you saw those, how did you determine how much of those videos you wanted to run on your site.
Mucha: Well we looked at those videos and we actually did a frame by frame analysis of the actual event. The actual event, Lisa, took place in less than a second. So what we did is we isolated those individual frames that clearly showed what had happened. And then we showed the video in its entirety, which was about 3:30 minutes long.
Mullins: Can you tell us in your own experience, not only as editor of Global Post, but in your journalistic experience how things have changed in terms of images that now tell us what happened in an event, but then also have an afterlife? Give us your own experience in cases like these.
Mucha: We are finding that it is very popular with news audiences because people want to see events as they happen. It’s raw, its visceral, it’s in real time, it’s delivering information that people want without filters and without multiple layers. This new technology allows viewers to really get a first draft of what’s happening in a way that was never really possible before. Imagine if mobile phone cameras had been around when Mussolini executed in Italy or when Ceauşescu was shot by his own people in Romania. Coverage of that would have been ubiquitous. Now imagine if 9/11 had occurred yesterday, the amount of video coverage of that even would have been overwhelming. You would have had literally thousands of tiny personalized records of that day, from multiple sources, multiple locations, multiple perspectives. At Global Post, how do we look at this? We view these as new reporting tools, which can’t be controlled by any one news organization, but they offer new opportunities for smart journalists to tell better and more complete stories on consequential topics like this one in Libya.
Mullins: Tom Mucha, Editor of Global Post in Boston, thank you.
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