Carlos Miller Speaks About Being Censored By Pixiq
Carlos Miller was kind enough to speak with me yesterday about his latest run-in with censorship. I’ll let The Daily Censored set the stage:
Carlos Miller, whose blog Photography is Not A Crime tirelessly covers the intersection of police and cameras, thought he had come upon a story made of pure gold, it had sex, a lawless cop, and even a kitten. But when his publisher pulled the article without even contacting him, he saw his profits plummet.
The story is now over the national news, but when Miller posted his article, “Copulating Cop Caught on Camera,” hardly anyone knew about the New Mexico State Police officer who was captured on surveillance footage having sex with a woman while wearing his uniform.
“I was one of the first ones to break it. I was one of the first ones outside of New Mexico to write the story,” said Miller. “When you do this business, if you’re one of the first ones to report the story, you get the hits. … To really catch on a viral story, you have to be the one that takes a regional story and takes it national.”
After posting his article, Miller headed to lunch and started watching the hits rain down. But suddenly he realized that the hits had ceased at about 500, and he began wondering why the story was no longer up on his blog, which is published on Pixiq, a website run by Sterling Publishing, a subsidiary of Barnes & Noble.
“Then I get the e-mail from the editor saying, ‘we had to delete the story. It came from higher-ups because it was offensive and not about photography,’” he said.
Miller will be the first to tell you that his work has always been about “the strength of the camera, the power of the camera, the camera does not lie.” Thanks to that strength and power, we are aware now more than ever of actions taken by police – sparking a backlash from law enforcement. However, it is difficult to see how the story in question is not about photography. If the state engages in photo surveillance, it’s still photography. This particular camera working for the state of New Mexico just happened to catch a cop fornicating in broad daylight.
When asked why Pixiq censored his coverage of the story, Miller replied, “It was a decision made by somebody that was offended by it, I guess.” Someone forgot to tell the editors at Pixiq that sex sells. Taking the story down cost them and Miller, who gets paid based on page views. More importantly, Pixiq needlessly removed a story already reported by KOB-TV in New Mexico.
In the aftermath of the story being pulled, Miller was flooded with calls and emails from people wondering what happened. “I went on Facebook and Google+ and basically said what I had to say. I’m pissed about it, but it happened. I’m going to move forward and definitely weigh my options,” said Miller, whose contract with Pixiq is up at the end of the month.
At first, Miller was seriously considering jumping ship and moving to a different site, but now he is intent on mending the fence and moving forward, saying, “For now I’ll stick with them and hopefully we can just put it behind us.” Miller is looking to insert preventative measures into his new contract to avoid a repeat. He knows his work can be controversial and opinionated, but he also knows that Pixiq needs to sell ads, and he wants them to sell ads, asserting, “I just want to keep the site going and keep writing. I want to put this behind us because I have other stories to work on, news stories that have impact. This is a learning experience for everybody.”
Miller’s posts go up with no filter – as they should. He aims to be as fair and accurate as possible but also understands that consumers are now editors in the new media age. Unprecedented interaction between online journalists and their readers act as a previously nonexistent check on the media.
Moreover, Miller recognizes this latest episode as a distraction from his larger mission of making changes in police departments across the country through his work. I asked him if the story will be re-posted (originally published on August 30th), but he doesn’t want to create any further tension. “At this point it doesn’t matter. It’s one of those breaking news stories. When I posted it, it just came out of New Mexico on KOB-TV and it was just a very local/state story – which you knew was going to go national because it was that kind of story. After I first posted it, the story was already getting a lot of hits, but it lost its luster.”
“I wasn’t happy with the situation, I wasn’t happy with the decision. It was the wrong decision. Any publisher should know that you don’t remove a story without any explanation without expecting readers to wonder what happened. That’s just normal. But it was the first time that it happened, and I’ve talked to the managing director in New York, and he assured me it wouldn’t happen again. We’re going to put this behind us because I have a lot of work to do, there are a lot of stories I need to write, and that’s the important stuff. I want to focus on that. I don’t want this to be a distraction, and I’m just going to move forward with it and hopefully it won’t happen again. The truth is, in the year that I’ve been with [Pixiq], they’ve been good to me. It’s been a good experience. This [particular incident] was a bad experience, but so far the good has outweighed the bad. We’re going to move on, there’s a lot of work to do, and I just hope to continue doing what I’m doing.”
Although Pixiq started this fire by censoring Miller, both parties are right to extinguish it, learn from it, and continue their professional relationship. Free speech and a free press are vital components of advancing a free society, and I’m optimistic that future episodes between Miller and Pixiq can be avoided. Citizens that value these components possess a greater cause for further optimism – anyone familiar with Carlos Miller’s body of work knows he won’t be deterred.