Reutergate Is News Everywhere But in the (formerly) Mainstream Media
UPDATE: Go to Matt Sheffield's open thread for current developments.
Last night's report by Charles Johnson of Little Green Footballs that a "Beirut burning" photo that was clearly and clumsily doctored with Photoshop editing tools had made it way onto the wires from Reuters has morphed into what must be considered a full-blown scandal that should, by rights, shake the news service and other "Mainstream" Media outlets to their very foundations, and force them to reexamine how they conduct and control their photojournalistic efforts around the world.
Consider just some of what has happened in the 24 hours or so since my NewsBusters post very early Sunday morning:
- Reuters has "dropped" the freelance Lebanese journalist after the image in question was shown to be doctored:
- The wire service offered perhaps the lamest excuse ever offered in the history of photojournalism for Adnan Hajj, the photographer involved --
It appears that no one with an iota of experience with Photohop is buying the "dust marks" excuse. Johnson himself characterized it as "Worst Excuse of the Decade."
"The photographer has denied deliberately attempting to manipulate the image, saying that he was trying to remove dust marks and that he made mistakes due to the bad lighting conditions he was working under," said Moira Whittle, the head of public relations for Reuters.
"This represents a serious breach of Reuters' standards and we shall not be accepting or using pictures taken by him," Whittle said in a statement issued in London.
- Several blogs have begun analyzing Hajj's available body of work (link is to a page containing the first 10 of an estimated 346), and it is not faring well under the scrutiny. Serious questions that are in reality closer to accurate accusations are being raised about other photos, either in terms of photoshopping and/or "staging," which is supposed to be against Reuters' policy, by The Jawa Report, Ace of Spades, Riehl World View (several posts--just scroll down), and Gateway Pundit. Michelle Malkin's blog is serving as an ad hoc collection point as these and other discoveries accumulate. The American Thinker is also following the story closely and frequently updating.
- Drinking from Home has noted possible problems with Reuters photos from a different photojournalist.
- To show that the idea of staging events may not be unique to Adnan Hajj, Sweetness & Light seriously questions, based on his whereabouts and his apparent nonchalance, whether the person the media reported as the father of a slain Lebanese girl was indeed her father.
- Johnson himself, when interviewed on Matt Drudge's radio program tonight hinted (this is my take on what he said), that the ability of Adnan Hajj to be in so many places nearly contemperaneously might raise questions as to whether he has been the actual picturetaker on all of the photos submitted in his name.
- Dumb Looks Still Free is proposing a set of guidelines for photojournalists, including a requirement that photos' "raw digital data (be) made available freely for examination by the public" -- before any touching up of any kind was done for publication purposes.
You might think that all of the hubbub might get the investigative attention of those outlets that used to be considered The "Mainstream" Media.
Based on a Google News search on "Reuters," you would be wrong:
(The image is of the first few results of a search just before 1 AM on August 7; other results relating to the Hajj photo appeared below the portion of the page that was image-captured and on the subsequent page, but none were from "major media" outlets. To ensure that nothing was missed, I also did a "Sort by Date" and looked at all 26 items listed in the first result and both in the third before reaching my conclusions.)
The only US "Mainstream" Media outlets listed by Google News as dealing with the story are ABC Online, ABC News, Editor & Publisher, and The Washington Post, all of which merely reprinted the Reuters press release about "dropping" Hajj. All other listings are of blogs that have managed to pass whatever tests Google News has for being classified as "news sources," a few other smaller publications, and about a dozen overseas papers, including about a half-dozen from Israel.
The New York Times? It didn't show up in the Google News search, but The Times, like the Post, merely carried Reuters' press release.
This singular lack of curiosity over what is developing into a major scandal is an eerie echo of another very similar-sounding "-gate" from about 2 years ago. The formerly "Mainstream" Media ignores this story at great risk to what's left of its photojournalistic, and other, credibility.