August 9, 2006

"It was handled by someone on a very busy day at a more junior level than we would wish for in ideal circumstances."

That's the pathetically lame excuse offered up by a senior Reuters editor attempting to minimize the Adnan Hajj problem.

UPDATE: Here's the WaPo version of the story, highlighting the work of LGF's Charles Johnson:
In Johnson's view, the news media haven't adequately sounded the alarm about threats to Western societies posed by radical Islamic groups -- something he says he seeks to redress through his politically conservative blog.

"My main take is that political correctness has kept a lot of the hard truth from being spread by the mainstream media," says Johnson....

"The vast, vast majority of Muslims want to get along and live a comfortable life just like everyone else," he says. "But the mainstream media shies away from showing the public the real face of Islamic extremism. They don't want to offend. And they are influenced by some strong advocacy groups that are funded by Middle Eastern countries, which are actively engaging with the mainstream media to promote a point of view."

Johnson responds here, finding fault with the piece.


MadisonMan said...

Don't you understand? It's just a few bad apples at the bottom that are the root of the problem! Certainly it's not a problem in upper management -- nosiree bob!

Bruce Hayden said...

I do believe that Reuters and the other companies in a similar position, are worried about this. After all, their livlihood is at stake here. If they get a reputation for publishing faked photos, the papers that pick them up will quit doing so, because their readers will automatically discount anything from, say, Reuters. So, they are concerned.

And, yes, it does appear that part of the problem is that agencies like Reuters, and the major papers, etc., have fired a lot of their international staff over the recent years, saving money by going with stringers like this one.

But the other advantage of stringers is that they are often indiginous, and that translates into better access, which in turn means more newsworthy stories/photos. But, as we discussed a couple of days ago, that comes with a price tag - that indiginous stringers are more susceptable to pressure by groups such as Hezzlabah, and may also be more sympathetic to the groups' aims.

But one thing that has not been addressed by Reuters, at least yet, is a fairly widespread perception that they do have a political agenda, and use their news service to further it. While those finding the fakes would have been excited anyway, regardless of source, finding that al-Reuters was the company involved is part of what really excited those on the right side of the blogosphere. There, the company has a long history of publishing highly slanted stories with even more slanted headlines, always pushing an anti-Bush/ anti-American agenda. Any frequent reader of Taranto's WSJ Best of the Web would be aware of this, as only John Kerry seems to come into more scorn than does Reuters in his columns.

So, assumming the possibility of this bias, one thing that the NYT article doesn't touch on when discussing Reuters' planned remedial actions, is that they fell into the same trap that the 60 Minutes crowd did - wanting something to be true so badly that they lowered their scrutiny, and, thus, became an easy mark for someone trying to manipulate the news.

PatCA said...

What they are desperately trying to say is that this is an anomaly and not a pattern. Yet the blogs are replete with examples of fakery. (My favorite: the macho militant standing in front of what is supposedly a downed Israeli jet yet in actually is a pile of burning tires.)

Newsweek, the LAT, all have explained away their "mistakes," but this is a grand scale scandal. If nothing else, I hope this convinces the media to get rid of radical stringers/sympathizers who are responsible for so much of the war weariness in this country.

Dave said...

Will Glocer resign?

Bruce Hayden said...

It may be a scandal, but there is no evidence that the news organizations participating in it are really congnizent of what is going on. Rather, it seems to be a result of an unconscious bias with them that significantly reduces their scepticism when looking at stuff that conforms with their world view.

But also remember that Reuters is the news agency that still refuses to classify al Qaeda, Hamas, Hezzballah, et al., as terrorists.

The Drill SGT said...

Bruce Hayden said...
It may be a scandal, but there is no evidence that the news organizations participating in it are really cognizant of what is going on

It's useful to make a couple of distinctions. For the purposes of discussion, let's say there are three groups of "news organizations":

1 Wire and photo services, e.g Reuters, AP, AFP, Getty, etc. International Producers of content, but without retail news businesses.

2. International/National News operations which consume the products of group 1, but who have independent news operations to gather stories and photos from the war zones. e.g. WaPo, NYT, TV Networks, etc.

3. Small local papers that have no independent war zone news gathering operation and are solely working from group 1 materials.

I agree that folks in all three groups lack the skeptic objectivity to question source materials that conform to their world view.

I think that the group 1 and 2 operations however, "know or should know" of the dangers posed by the sole use of local stringers whose access to "hot stuff" is predicated on cooperation with one side or the other. I think that both these groups ignore this obvious truth at their long term peril

SteveR said...

At best the use of "stringers" is journalism on the cheap. As I read elsewhere, the media would (and has) criticize(d) Rumsfeld for "war on the cheap" The war of ideas is important and the truth is the basic obligation of the journalist.

But if the price is right..

Pogo said...

Reuters was merely continuing to revise history in much the same manner as the Soviets, faked photos and all.

The puzzling aspect is why anyone thinks that Reuters didn't already know what they themselves were doing, or that the organization is merely carrying water for the jihadis during a war.

Captain Reuters: "I'm shocked, shocked to find that Photoshopping is going on in here!
Round up the usual suspects."

David said...

Any organization that sub-contracts work,including the use of stringers, is looking for plausible deniability. When things go wrong, no matter what the business endeavor, they blame the people they hire on the cheap, fire them, then start the process all over again. They hope their wounded credibility will recover in a day or two.

If you hire a rent-a-cop for minimum wage to guard a million dollar diamond, don't be surprised if he and the diamond disappear.

These people aren't stupid. They knew the risks and took the chance. They blame junior staffers, reassign them and business as usual with new faces.

This is called; Risk Assessment! They are banking on our gullibility.

The Drill SGT said...

David said...
Any organization that sub-contracts work,including the use of stringers, is looking for plausible deniability.

The other reason to subcontract is to meet governmental goals. In the US it is likely small business or monority contracting.

In Lebanon, it's Hizbollah's hire a Shite to get the best shots program.

It's all the same.

bearbee said...

Here's a totally sick setup someone caught - photo by a NYT photographer with the NYT eventually publishing a flimsy "correction":

New York Times Busted in Hezbollah Photo Fraud

Anonymous said...

I think when we're tut-tutting over faked "news" photographs we're making a category mistake. There have been thoughtful and technically informed comments both here and in the earlier post "Faking the photographs," but I think they miss the point.

These are not news photographs. They are religious pictures.

Religious art is meant to reinforce a belief system. It is not intended to be realistic. In the past, images portrayed allegorical and symbolic content that served the purposes of religion, the state, and the ruling elites.

Before the 17th century, efforts to accurately portray events would not have been thought worthwhile or even posssible. All art had some axe to grind. That was simply the way images were. Icons of the early Church were not intended to portray their subjects realistically, but were meant as aids to prayer and contemplation.

As European painting developed unrivaled tools for realism in the course of the 15th century, old habits did not die. How many late Medieval paintings have we seen where some potato-faced Flemish burgher is painted praying with the Virgin Mary or kneeling with the shepherds before the baby Jesus? What about the local tart or royal favorite done up as Mary Magdalene in a Crucifixion scene? Some of these paintings are made in an almost photorealistic style, but no one believed that Burgomeister Joos had been lately rubbing elbows with the Virgin Mary. They were expensives reminders of the Burgomeister's piety.

The first time we see slices of life with a realistic veneer are in the genre paintings of 17th century, again in the Low Countries. But even here, the situations are posed, symbolic props abound, and a story or a moral point is the reason for the painting.

The first paintings that have a "photographic" feel are Caneletto's astounding large city scenes of Dresden and Venice in the mid-18th century. Something was definitely in the air. The Enlightenment was freeing imagery from its former status of telling the same old tales. When photography was finally invented, the idea of objectivity triumphed. It was now possible to record actual events with some sense of what they looked like.

We have now returned to a pre-Enlightenment view of imagery. The Israeli jet dropping "bombs" that were an obvious manipulation of an anti-anti-aircraft flare is not a jet airplane engaged in combat operations. It has been transformed into a devil along the lines of something from Dürer or Brueghel. The Lebanese fake civilian casualty photos serve the same function as pictures of martyrs. These situations may not have happened exactly like this, but the point is the concept of martyrdom, not whether the person in the photo is actually dead.

These pictures serve the purposes of two rather different religious communities. The first and most obviously are Moslems who oppose Israel. The other are the left-leaning secularists who preside over the gathering of news. I find this latter community's wholesale abandonment of the Enlightenment ideal of objective truth speaks volumes about their real intent.

Jack's Shack said...

It is shameful, just shameful.

David said...

So what makes the excuse "pathetically lame"? If I move even a dozen photos in a day my odds of missing something get pretty high. At 2,000 photos a day, the remarkable thing would have been if someone had caught it.