August 08, 2006

Physician, Heal Thyself

Whatever the editorial equivalent of that is, it really needs doing.

I've been following with some interest the Reuters photography story (lots of links here). If you're unfamiliar with it, read the box.

The Reuters news agency has fired freelance photographer Adnan Hajj for photoshopping photographs. The first conclusive example had dark smoke added to a scene overlooking Beirut. At this point Reuters suspended Hajj. When a second photograph was discovered of an aircraft with additional "missiles" and bombs copy-and-pasted in, they fired him and pulled from their database almost 1,000 pictures that he'd provided them over the course of ten years. Since then, additional photographs have been discovered where he would submit the same scene, shot from different perspectives, as evidence of overnight airstrike damage dated weeks apart. Some of these photos feature the exact same people in them.

The reason I felt it necessary to summarize the story is because it's not being reported. When I mentioned it to co-workers, they hadn't heard a word about it. A search of the local news radio website makes no mention of it, although I did find a story titled News Agencies Stand By Lebanon Photos.

From the story:

"It's hard to imagine how someone sitting in an air-conditioned office or broadcast studio many thousands of miles from the scene can decide what occurred on the ground with any degree of accuracy," said Kathleen Carroll, AP's senior vice president and executive editor.

Which is exactly the criticism that many people have with the news coverage in the middle east. The reporters sit safely inside their "Green Zone" hotels and have paid local stringers bring them the news. They're not covering the stories, they merely collate what is delivered to them before passing it along as fact.

Yet when the public makes this argument, it's disregarded by the media because they're "professionals". There have been a lot of arrogant bastards over the years working to turn journalism into a cult, and if you're not in the cult then you cannot criticize. The sad thing is, they've largely succeeded.

Senior editor Carroll then goes on with this:

Photographers are experienced in recognizing when someone is trying to stage something for their benefit, she said.

So, in other words, they see it often enough to know it when it happens. And maybe, like in Hajj's case, they're ok with staging the scene because it fits their agenda. Good thing the news agencies have layers of professional editorial staffing to keep this from happening... but, aren't all the editors "sitting in an air-conditioned office or broadcast studio many thousands of miles from the scene"? I thought that made it difficult or impossible to "decide what occurred on the ground with any degree of accuracy".

Then we get this "professional" opinion:

"Do you really think these people would risk their lives under Israeli shelling to set up a digging ceremony for dead Lebanese kids?" asked Patrick Baz, Mideast photo director for AFP.

Hmmmm... I just did a quick check, and not one source ever indicated that there was shelling going on during the rescue operation. So where did this statement this come from?

More and more, I believe that the weather forecast is the most accurate part of any news program.

Posted by Ted at August 8, 2006 06:07 AM | TrackBack
Category: Links

I think CNN's picked up the story. You'd think it would be everywhere though, we're talking about a news organization that most people thought was fairly unbiased; and we find out they've put out hundreds of doctored photos?

Used to be don't believe everything you hear, or maybe don't believe everything you read. Now we can't even believe what we see. Are we even sure there's a Lebanon out there anymore? Shit, and I can't remember if I took the blue pill or the red one.

Posted by: shank at August 8, 2006 10:04 AM
Site Meter