Tuesday, August 8, 2006


Reuters just pulled a doctored photo of bomb-blasted Beirut and terminated its relationship with the phographer/hoax artist. The person who exposed this fraud, unfortunately, wasn't some Reuters photo editor but Charles Johnson, the same blogger who found problems with the memos aired on 60 Minutes II regarding George W. Bush's military service. I say "unfortunately," because this photo shouldn't have come within 50 light years of a wire service line.

The fakeness should've been obvious from the repeating patterns of smoke. I wonder how many pairs of eyes this photo went across before it hit the circuits. And I wonder if Reuters might terminate them too for failing to spot such a Photoshop farce.

It's not going to be very long before TV has its own version of this scandal, something way beyond electronically superimposing a reporter in front of the White House. I'm thinking Wag The Dog, where war footage is created in the CGI studio and beamed out to the rest of the world after some stringer slips it to a network guy claiming he just shot it in the West Bank.

CNN just created a new system for sharing viewer-submitted news footage. Nowhere on the front page do I see any warnings about the veracity of items. CNN editors review what comes down the pipe, I'm sure, but somebody somewhere is going to slip something phony past them, if only to make a point. It's been done in the print world. CNN has fallen victim to a fake news generator. And remember the infamous 2003 "Hunting For Bambi" hoax which sucked in KLAS-TV in Las Vegas and spread across the country through network feed services. And just last month, somebody faked a phone report.

When this scandal comes, I'm not going to be surprised. Saddened, yes. My job is hard enough without having to wonder whether our viewers think we're making it up.

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