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Report on Reuters actions after publishing altered photographs

January 18, 2007

david-schlesinger 2.jpgLast August, Reuters published and then withdrew two photographs from Lebanon that had been digitally altered.

At that time, we immediately terminated our relationship with the freelance photographer who took and altered the images and said wed share with the public the results of our internal investigations.

Experienced photo editors and other senior editorial staff went through thousands of images published during the Lebanon conflict. We are satisfied no other images were digitally altered.

We were not satisfied with the degree of oversight that we had that allowed these two images to slip through. We have tightened procedures, taken appropriate disciplinary action and appointed one of our most experienced editors to supervise photo operations in the Middle East.

Stephen Crisp started in this role this month; most recently he managed the transition to Reuters of our Action Images subsidiary. A British citizen, he has run pictures operations in Europe, Asia and globally while working for Reuters since 1985.

His predecessor in the Middle-East role was dismissed in the course of the investigation for his handling of the case.

We called together our senior photographers to strengthen our existing exacting guidelines on ethical issues in photography and wrote a new code of conduct for photographers, appended to this note.

We have restructured our pictures editing operation to ensure that senior editors deal with all potentially controversial photographs, and we have ensured that shift leaders are focusing solely on quality issues instead of doing editing themselves.

In addition, we have invested in additional training and supervision, particularly in the area of digital workflow, where we have engaged external experts.

Finally, we are working with industry leaders to see if there are technical means we can devise to better recognize possible fraud.

We are fully satisfied, as we conclude our extensive investigation, that it was unfortunate human error that led to the inadvertent publication of two rogue photographs.  There was absolutely no intention on Reuters part to mislead the public.

Our swift, strong response, however, both in the days immediately following and in the months since, has strengthened our commitment to our trust principles and our reputation as a respected global news provider which acts with integrity and transparency. We have shown that when mistakes are made we take responsibility and make changes.

Our enhanced guidelines and procedures are among the best in the industry. And I believe we are firm in our dedication to reporting the world truthfully, objectively and without bias, as we have done for more than 150 years.

A brief guide to Reuters values and standards

The use of Photoshop 

 

David Schlesinger is Reuters Editor-in-Chief

Comments

David – Interesting and valid set of guidelines, but there’s another insurance step that really would work. I understand the value of speed in distribution of news images (hence, a jpg prepped for publication in the field), but a follow up of the original images in RAW format — the entire sequence of the shoot — to the photo desk would give you good oversight.It’s extremely difficult to alter a RAW image in the compositional sense (helps in cropping, contrast, overall color balance correction and overall sharpness) and virtually impossible in an entire sequence. The original RAW images would allow the photo desk to see the work right from the camera and make its own judgments on acceptable modification, as well as have a detailed archive (i.e., the entire “roll” and “contacts”).I’d put myself in the expert class on working with digital images and Photoshop, both in my function of marketing a university and as a hobbyist in native plant photography (www.geoffmehl.com). It’s scary how an image can be altered — especially consolidating elements from different images or removing undesired elements. It’s one thing to do it for advertising/marketing/educational illustration and another to do it for news. As a former newspaper editor, I respect the ethics of the situation. The images you referred to were really, really clumsy efforts.But even with a slight feed delay from distribution of the breaking image, demanding the original RAW images come to the desk will prevent an enthusiastic field photographer from helping an image along — it makes it too hard to even try faking and assures you of what you’re handling on a tight deadline.regardsGeoffrey MehlDirector of PublicationsBloomsburg University of Pennsylvaniagmehl@bloomu.edu

 

“Our swift, strong response, however, both in the days immediately following…”With all due respect sir, I must have missed that.What I recall was utter denial and outright contempt that anyone would question the organization’s integrity. Only the fact that the evidence of fraud was so overwhelmingly obvious caused your organization to act at all, otherwise you and your allies in text would have simply swept the whole affair under the rug.

Posted by Frank | Report as abusive
 

Altered pictures are only part of the problem. If you have stringers who are working for the insurrection or Global Jihad, and if they continue to stage photos for propaganda reasons, your efforts on the technical side will be completely useless. Until you have the financial strength to send unbiased journalists to trouble spots — obviously not the case now — you will continue to be a source of very questionable material.I’m sorry, the mud isn’t off your reputation yet.

 

David, it’s great to see you looking well with most of your hair intact and very little grey showing. As a former Reuters New & Television employee (and very proud of it) I am pleased and reassured that we continue to require thehighest level of journalistic standards in the business. Reuters forever!Ben

Posted by Ben Bendetti | Report as abusive
 

You have specified quite clearly that digital enhancement will be closely watched, but you fail to address the much more important and damaging issue of staged and stage-managed photos. The use of local stringers who have attachments if not outright loyalties towards one side in a conflict has damaged Reuters more than the Photoshopping of two images. Until Reuters addresses that problem you cannot expect knowledgeable people to take a Reuters photo or story at face value.

Posted by PJ Whalen | Report as abusive
 

I wonder if a higher standard means higher compensation for your stringer photographers. You get what you pay for. Maybe if photographers felt fairly compensated, you wouldn’t ever have to worry about these kind of ethical dilemmas

Posted by C.Rank | Report as abusive
 

I support Reuters’ decisions to tighten the policies on photograph editing. However, and more importantly, I should note that the backlash from the one instance of editing was seriously asymmetrical. It was used as a tool to smear a respectable news source for an oversight that affected almost nothing.While I respect Reuters for being so open and apologetic about the incident, I think that the transgression (adding smoke for dramatic effect) was nothing worthy of the level of backlash that was seen. And it certainly did not detract from Reuters’ status as a fantastic news source.You did not tarnish your reputations or condemn yourselves as being a source of ‘questionable’ stories. The people who are saying these things simply enjoy grasping onto the biggest flaw they can find. Please continue to demonstrate the highest journalistic standards as you have done, and bear in mind that most of us are aware that this episode was trivial from the start. The fact that you have responded with more vigor than even your detractors speaks volumes about both you and them.

Posted by William P | Report as abusive
 

David,I am not quite as cynical as some of your readers and believe that it’s great to see Reuters striving to ensure that images provided to viewers are indeed factual. Your recent actions do, however, raise questions regarding the scope of your new policy. If you believe (as I do) that images should be a true representation of reality will the same rules be enforced on what you may deem to be less controversial images such as those of “everyday people”? Each year tens of thousands of Americans are diagnosed as suffering from eating disorders and disordered body image – conditions often worsened by the patient’s assessment of self versus the extensively digital manipulated pictures of models in advertising and promotional material. Most if not all of the pictures you show in your advertisements and source from the promotional files offered by commercial entities are extensively altered versions of the subjects therein, and not a true representation of what people look like. This creates unrealistic expectations of beauty and serious feelings of shortcoming in men and women of all ages alike – an offence that is arguably as damnable as the manipulation of war related pictures.I sincerely applaud your intent to ensure integrity in reporting, but challenge you to expand the scope of your regulations to include all pictures, not just those that are deemed to be currently sensitive.

Posted by Michael | Report as abusive
 

REUTERS IS KILLING ITSELFReuters is defensive and hostile, trying to constrain this issue to 2 photographs, when biased and or untruthful reporting rightly threatens the foundations of the entire fourth estate. I am a medical researcher who has done hundreds of media interviews, and I have yet to see a single accurate media report from these interviews. I have yet to witness Reuters reportage on any topic of my expertise that was fully accurate. Fact abuse and truth pollution prevails in the MSM. Truth does not have a political orientation, but the fourth estate crisis deepens because the first estate (in democracies, the people) can now directly access source documents, eyewitness reports, and myriad instances of MSM photographers faking photographs and stories. Reuters moral turpitude, wobbly high-grounding, aimless reasoning, and constant whining, betray the permanent lack of direction, the frustrated malaise of a dying culture that refuses to change. The public has never wanted misleading or false reportage, they want unbiased, clearly presented factual information. So long as Reuters fails to satisfy this demand, so will their abandonment accelerate.

Posted by DemocracyRules | Report as abusive
 

David,I don’t think the two photos were, in themselves, the major concern. They were just symptoms that seem to verify that major news organizations are manipulating the information given to the public or are allowing others to manipulate the information given to the public. Sure, altering pixels was the manipulation exposed, but the fact that happened just verified the manipulation. The method was not the beginning and end of the problem. The same wailing woman in front of each of her apparently numerous homes that were destroyed is manipulation also. The pixels were not altered, but the artificial staging is just as manipulative. The current structures of news organizations beg for this manipulation. To save costs you hire people outside your organizations to take photos. On the print side you no longer investigate and report, you just print what you are told by others then claim you were completely truthful as that is what the person told you, even if it is totally false and anyone with a spark between two brain cells would know it was false.You will not regain respect until you spend the dollars to have employees take the photos, and hire reporters who are more than parrots.

Posted by Mike P | Report as abusive
 

The bigger you are the bigger the target and so it is with Reuters. When you are a global entity (and the eyes and ears of those of us who will likely never visit the news sites), the burden of care in reporting is huge.When the photos were originally exposed as dramatically altered, you failed the critical test. When you are constantly in the place of earning trust you have to take the charge seriously and deal with it. You did deal with it eventually and I commend you for acting. But the unpleasant PR you are receiving now was entirely due to a failure to take the accusations seriously in the beginning.The danger of being big is thinking that big means right. Truth is right and that must be the goal.The comment from William P speaks of those who are “grasping onto the biggest flaw they can find.” I really think he misses the point. It is because the loyal readers of Reuters, who can almost never check facts, witnessed the discovery of an egregious manipulation of the data treated so cavalierly. I guess I am asking that the daily briefing of the staff include a healthy reminder of humility and the need to listen to others.

Posted by Bill K. | Report as abusive
 

If you are serious about repairing your sullied reputation tell the public what you will do about the obviously staged photos that are the standard for reuters?

Posted by Omar Heidelberg | Report as abusive
 

On a different note: I’m mystified as to why you continue to let partisan groups use your images for free on their websites. They frequently edit the pictures in complete contravention of your guidelines, and almost always misrepresent what is on the picture to suit their agenda. What’s more, some of these groups are run as for-profit companies. When are you going to stop people exploiting your images, and by extension your photographers, for political ends?

Posted by Dave | Report as abusive
 

Publishing photos that were cleary and clumsily photoshopped is not “unfortunate human error”. It was a clear attempt to influence public opinion. It reflects a manifestation of a bias and a group-think so pervasive in your news agency that you don’t realize this is happening until you get caught. If you remember, your initial response when this came out was to deny. It was only when you became a laughingstock that you actually started to face the reality of what you had done. There is also the issue of Reuters publishing photos that appear to be obviously staged photos in the past as well. I think Reuters needs to ask yourselves a question, are you trying to report the news or are you trying to influence public opinion?

Posted by Joe Batters | Report as abusive
 

To those who call the bogus images trivial,’ I say you totally miss the boat. I also see you as someone who might, given the opportunity, clone the heck out of an image.

Posted by bob | Report as abusive
 

Wow. Read about this in PDN (Photo District News) and just by looking at the thumbnail you can CLEARLY see the smoke is not natural and was doctored. I find it amazing that it wasn’t caught right away. Not only for being faked, but for being BAD.Patterns like that do not occur in nature, especially smoke which is fluid and constantly moving, nothing repeats, let alone over and over again…in different sections no less.Maybe we just need to treat photographers and photography with more respect and hire trained and talented individuals who know good photography. Then again, anyone highly skilled at photoshop could have made the smoke look more real…but then why do journalism – it should be pure. Use photoshop skills for lying to consumers, right? OF COURSE not. Use it for art or editorial only.

Posted by Mike | Report as abusive
 

Thanks for the many responses to the posting on our photo rules. Some of them raised important issues that I wanted to deal with.Reuters is a global organisation and we regard it as a strength that we work with local photographers worldwide not a weakness. Local staff work and learn first under the close guidance of experienced senior international photographers. Some of those local photographers who started out as freelancers after the fall of the Iron Curtain in Eastern Europe are now working as Regional Chief Photographers with great effectiveness.All photographers who work for Reuters, whether they are staff or freelance and whatever their nationality, are made very aware that staging news photographs is a serious professional breach that can lead to dismissal. Our guidelines have been reinforced to make that even clearer and are public. In the course of our investigations, we reviewed a number of photographs of the conflict in Lebanon that readers alleged had been staged or that we felt required further research. This was an exhaustive process and we found no conclusive evidence that our photographers had set up the scene. However, we did conclude that in some cases the way those photographs were captioned was incomplete and could be construed as misleading. For that reason, we have substantially strengthened our guidelines on captioning, particularly in cases when photographers are escorted into areas by one or other parties to a conflict or in countries whose governments restrict the work of the media. Readers have a right to know whether photographers are truly free to work independently. We believe that we are setting a new standard for the industry in this regard.Some of our captions also did not make clear that the subjects in them were acting in response to the very presence of news photographers. We expect our photographers to work sensitively and unobtrusively, using long lenses when possible, so that their presence does not influence behaviors. However, when it does happen and there is a compelling news reason to publish the photograph we will make it very clear in the caption that the behavior shown is a result of the media’s presence.Internally, when we have questions about an image, our editors will go back to the photographer and ask for the raw images in their original sequence so we can be sure that reality has not been distorted. Readers also sometimes contact us to ask whether a photograph has been staged or Photoshopped. Sometimes an image can look too perfect or it can appear fabricated even when it is not. The reason is often that a camera lens does not “see” reality and respond to light in the same way as the human eye. We treat every inquiry seriously and investigate.Finally, staging photographs is of course an issue in news photography, just as plagiarism and fabrication are issues in news reporting.But the problem of staging is not new, it is not limited to any particular region of the world or story and it is certainly not restricted to Reuters. Some of the most iconic news photographs of history have been attacked as staged or misleading, among them the image of Marines raising the American flag on Iwo Jima during World War two, taken by an American photographer, or the photograph of a Vietnamese girl running naked from a napalm attack, taken by a Vietnamese photographer in 1972.

Posted by David Schlesinger | Report as abusive
 

YOU ARE STILL not addressing the generalized issue of misreporting and bias in Reuters. Where, for example, is your coverage of Palliwood, a key crisis facing the European media, that the average person should be aware of, but is not?

Posted by DemocracyRules | Report as abusive
 

Could you comment a bit more on the investigation of the other photos? Were all the 900 photos by the sacked stringer investigated? What level of detail was used? Are they available for others to look at? I’m (happily) surprised that no other ones from the stringer were found to be compromised. But it doesn’t quite make (human) sense. You would think that a person who lies as a habit would have done it a bit more. Thanks in advance for any additional explanation!

Posted by TCO | Report as abusive
 

In defense of Reuters, David Schlesinger says:”Finally, staging photographs is of course an issue in news photography, just as plagiarism and fabrication are issues in news reporting.But the problem of staging is not new, it is not limited to any particular region of the world or story and it is certainly not restricted to Reuters.”That statement says it all about what passes for “journalistic integrity” at Reuters. Schlesinger is justifying Reuters using faked and likely staged photos to shape the news, cause other people may have done the same thing. Thank you for verifying Reuters view on this, Mr. Schlesinger. Remember what I said earlier about your agency being so biased that you can’t even see it? You just confirmed that, in spades.

Posted by Joe Batters | Report as abusive
 

Dear David,In my humble opinion the problems as Reuters are much more systematic than you are willing to admit.With many news outlets using your materials on a daily basis the built in anti-Israeli slant that is evident to any unbiased observer becomes a problem for all of humanity.Understanding that stories from any other point of view are non-stories and that money drives everything helps me realize this is not going away.No one buys the paper or watches the news to hear about Arabs killing Arabs, Arabs killing Israelis or Americans. However, when Israelis or Americans kill Arabs (man-bites-dog) there is a headline to sell.Shame on us all,Amir StamperPlantation, FL

Posted by Amir | Report as abusive
 

“Some of the most iconic news photographs of history have been attacked as staged or misleading, among them the image of Marines raising the American flag on Iwo Jima during World War two, taken by an American photographer, or the photograph of a Vietnamese girl running naked from a napalm attack, taken by a Vietnamese photographer in 1972.”Dear Sir:As an Old Photojournalist, I’d wished you to have declared the two photos mentioned above as free of any blemish. Both were taken under clear cut circumstances, and there were witnesses (film footage included) on how both situations developed.It is sad enough that thorough pros and gentlemen as Joe Rosenthal and Nick Ut were slandered once and again. But to be mention by you, who should be in the know, without stating the truthful nature of both pictures, saddens me.Yours.

Posted by Horacio Villalobos | Report as abusive
 

David,Your January 19th post has convinced me I’ll get more accurate information from blogs than Reuters.You start by simply declaring the practice of buying photos from locals (who have strong connections with the area and therefore are not unbiased) is a strength. You go on to add some fluff about your system improving the lives of some individuals who ended up as employees, which would be great if you were a charity, but has nothing to do with the accuracy of photos. So we are left with “hiring locals is a strength because we say so.”You then go on to make conclusive proof of fraud your standard for rejecting a photo. Of course, the only way you get conclusive proof of fraud is if the photographer sends a note with the photos saying they are a fraud. Truly a high standard you have set there!You conclude by telling everyone faked photos is a fact of life and everyone should grow-up and accept it. Gee… how are you going to live up to that high standard?

Posted by Mike P | Report as abusive
 

In response to Geoffrey Mehl – We very often work in both RAW and what we refer to as the BASE image (the JPEG file as the camera shot it). RAW mode itself is not practical for every photo as the file is often 11mb or more. In many countries communications are still very slow and the images would take too long to send. We have also found that sending very large files over a bad communications link actually damages the file in the tranfer process. To recap, a small percentage of our files are sent in ‘RAW’. As telecoms facilities get better, this will increase.KEVIN COOMBSSenior Editor in ChargePictures Production

Posted by Kevin Coombs | Report as abusive
 

Hi David,Thanks for responding so candidly about the issue of image manipulation.I’m interested to know how a media organisation like Reuters responds to what are obviously mass email campaigns from groups who have little real interest in a dialogue on relevant issues, but use the concepts of ‘balance’ and allegations of ‘bias’ to pressure news organisations to demand reporting that conforms to their views?For instance, a group called “HonestReporting” recently called for its readers to bombard Reuters with complaints over the issue of Reuters’ 2007 Calender, because it contained an image of a Palestinian (btw, you’re about to be targetted again as HonestReporting is today asking people to comment here on this same issue).Do you just accept this as part and parcel of the modern media world, where increased participation is an asset, or is it a problem of increasing polarization, where some refuse to accept opinions/facts they don’t like and simply want confirmation of pre-existing views?

 

Sad to relate, there has been no “swift, strong response.” In fact the response was slow, half-hearted, and emerged only as the response to growing criticism. The only “swift, strong response” that Reuters made was to deny, deny, deny. A better response would have been to say: “We were in error. We allowed things to slip through that proper oversight would have caught. Our standards are the best, but we temporarily lost sight of them, and we assure the public that we have taken steps to ensure that this does not happen again.” Ultimately Reuters did say something of the sort, but with enough hedges around it that it becomes almost self-exculpatory.It is pleasing to note Reuters’ declaration: “We are fully satisfied, as we conclude our extensive investigation, that it was unfortunate human error that led to the inadvertent publication of two rogue photographs. There was absolutely no intention on Reuters part to mislead the public.” I have difficulty with that, because in addition to the two photographs that were intentionally altered, there has been pronounced and long-term bias on the part of Reuters. The appointment of Steven Crisp is an excellent decision. The very fact that it was necessary to appoint him and dismiss his predecessor is the clearest possible indication that all was not right. This is not a matter of two photographs. that is simply the tip of the Reuters iceberg and while it can certainly be expected that Mr. Crisp’s appointment will correct that, the fact that such attention needs to be focused on the Middle East in and of itself reveals the presence of a bias that does not exist elsewhere in Reuters’ reportage.

Posted by Eric A. Silver | Report as abusive
 

Sir,I hope that you will subject the calendar affair to the same apparently scrupulous investigation as reported for the photographs and that you will make the results public.I am doing my best to fight off paranoia but I can’t help feeling that there is an anti-Israel mole in the organization.

Posted by Henry Saltzman | Report as abusive
 

David Schlesinger writes:”Finally, staging photographs is of course an issue in news photography, just as plagiarism and fabrication are issues in news reporting.But the problem of staging is not new, it is not limited to any particular region of the world or story and it is certainly not restricted to Reuters.”Wow. Such towering moral authority. Such august and sovereign independent integrity. Such austere devotion to accuate reporting.”We may stage photographs, but we ain’t the first and we ain’t the only ones so get off our backs.”

Posted by Paul Miller | Report as abusive
 

Dear David,I’m relieved that you finally address journalistic integrity. In school, we learn the importance of being even-handed, honest, etc. when reporting. In the real world, we learn that in the name of profit and the cutting edge, professionals will sacrifice even-handedness and honesty, especially concerning the Middle East and Israel. Perhaps there is a thought that honesty and integrity don’t sell? The responds from this blog prove differently.

Posted by Elizabeth W | Report as abusive
 

These incidents do not “happen”. They are simply the logica result of the on going bias against Israel and Jews. Journalists / reporters/ editors comply with the spirit of the guild or circles they are involved with. This is the situation at CBS, ABC and other news outlets. It became chic to blame Jews and Israel and defend terorists.Something drastic needs to take place at the top of these news orgs. to change this attitude.

Posted by Niki | Report as abusive
 

Our swift, strong response, however, both in the days immediately followingThe problem is that the damage was already done. False reporting cannot be ‘retracted’ – no one reads the retractions.Reminda me of the story of a kid who asks his father how to atone for mis-placed words. The father suggests that, for each mis-placed word, he place a feather taken from a single pillow, on a fence. The pillow envetually became empty and the kid approached his father and asked how he would know that his mis-placed words were forgiven and forgotten.The father suggests that he go and collect all the featehrs and count them up. Returning with no feather the boy understands the message a little clearer.Mis-placed and evil words cannot be retracted.Perhaps your organization can add this to your ‘Values and Standards’.

Posted by Cyril Braude | Report as abusive
 

Congratulations on the careful review and correction of faudulent photographs. I hope and pray that this will extend to language as well. Fairness in actually reporting all sides of each issue as been missing, and will be welcome. Reuters commentaries are unnecessary; all we want and need are the complete and unvarnished facts.

Posted by Joanne B | Report as abusive
 

Dear David,Unfortunately, I see very little evidence to support the claim that Reuters’ showed a “swift, strong response…both in the days immediately following and in the months since.”First, I seem to recall Reuters issuing official public statements expressing denial, hostility, and outright contempt for those questioning their integrity. The organization continued to bat away the charges against it until the weight of evidence became too great to ignore. I submit that the organization would have otherwise swept the entire affair under the carpet and continued dealing with the same stringer photographer.Second, if the affair were dealt with in earnest and Reuters were truly concerned about “the degree of oversight,” then why have there been blaring incidences of bias since?To cite a specific instance, I draw your readers attention to one striking example that was recently brought to my attention; your 2007 “Eyes on the world” desk calendar. I suggest that readers view it for themselves on the following website, where its been conveniently posted, and judge for themselves:http://www.flickr.com/photos/ 33045123@N00/sets/72157594454193336/show  /Note the organizations effort to depict images and captions that reflect positively on achievement and culture throughout the world community. Indeed, this is clearly the case for the scenes selected for every month of the yearbarring one exception. The only image to depict a militaristic or negative subject matter is the month of July. Whats more, it is not surprising that the sole recipient singled out for this glaring oversight is none other than the state of Israel.Could not Reuters have found something more positive in keeping with the tone of the rest of the calendar, even, for example, depicting Palestinians voting in their own election? It is very difficult to believe that the marketing staff at Reuters is incapable of finding any other relevant image with a similarly positive message from the organizations huge archive of photographs.Reuters’ calendar demonstrates a subtle yet insidious and institutionalized form of bias. It is reflected not only in that the agency has adapted a crude, anti-intellectual stance with regard to the conflict in the mideast, demonstrating no interest with regard to its historical and political reality, but also in the fact that the following question begs to be asked: With all that is wrong in the world today and given the magnitude of these inequities, why does Reuters continuously insist on placing a disproportionate focus on Israel?

Posted by Eric | Report as abusive
 

Ref.: The manipulation of pictures about the Israeli-Hezbollah warDear Mr. Schlesinger,Reuters will loose its credibility as a reliable media organization. It simply cannot afford to distort the truth by manipulating pictures taking during the Israeli-Hezbollah war. This is bias reporting.I am glad that you took measures to correct the situation. Let us hope that your new procedures regarding the photo operations in the Middle East will result in improved standards of journalism.

Posted by Dr. Oro Anahory | Report as abusive
 

Dear David,Lies, mishandling, faulty goods when these things happen in the product industry the product is recalled and the purchasers compensated.Why haven’t the offending calendars been recalled? We thank Reuters for at least attempting to own up to its shortcomings but you wouldn’t feed bad formula to a baby and you wouldn’t expect the company to go scot free.People rely on Reuters to provide unbiased coverage and we are sorely disappointed that you haven’t done that in these cases. Our trust in Reuters has been damaged.We need real action to bring that trust back not lip service.

 

To the management and editorial teams at Reuters:Democracy depends on a free and independent press to report truth, expose corruption and keep our treasured system working to benefit the people. As journalists, your role nationally and internationally is absolutely crucial. I believe you understand this dimension of your work.Unfortunately, we have all witnessed the corruption of the press in the last years, as well as its becoming victim to ideology. This has led to a significant weakening of democracy the world over, and the strengthening of its enemies.One only has to look at:- CNN’s admission of biased reporting in order to gain favourable access to Saddam’s Iraq,- the doctored images and biased reports that came from Lebanon in the recent war there (did anyone actually criticise Hezbollah for firing missiles from civilian areas?),- the compliance of the press in the Palestinian territories where no report adverse to the Palestinians is published for fear of having reporting permits revoked, and- the lack of serious questioning of interviewees and allegations that are anti-Western and anti-Israel at source.Another glaring example of this bias (being blinkered by ideology) is the refusal to call terrorists by their name when it is Israeli and Jewish civilians that are killed and maimed, but suddenly calling them terrorists when the victims are American, British, Australian, or from any other country.Other examples include:- Unrelenting negative press of Israel, while countries with far worse records are relatively ignored, e.g. Sudan, China/Tibet, North Korea, Iran/B’hai’s/Kurds, etc- Criticism of Israel for building a defensive barrier that has been 100% effective in stopping the bombing and killing of its civilians, while no comment is passed on other countries with such barriers or in the process of building them.Sadly, Reuters has been no exception to such flawed reporting over the years.This type of bias, besides undermining democracy the world over, has 2 other serious effects:1) It destroys the credibility of your organisation. I don’t think I need to elaborate on the ramifications of that here.2) It emboldens the perpetrators of terrorism and crimes against humanity, as they know that their actions will not lead to their condemnation or loss of support across the world. It has led to the death toll from such acts being much higher than it otherwise would have been, and so makes the compliant press accessories to murder. One wonders how many lives would have been saved had the world’s press roundly condemned the bombings of civilians in Israel from the outset, and presented reports on the lives of the victims and their families? Or even those who had been horribly maimed by the bolts and metal shards included in those bombs? I can assure you that if the perpetrators of these awful acts knew that they were losing support with every bombing, that they would have ceased a long time ago!Please don’t forget the lessons of appeasement that we learned from Chamberlain and Hitler. If we feed the forces of evil, they will only grow stronger and eventually pose an existentialist threat to ourselves, as they do now.The purpose of this e-mail is to appeal to you at the start of this new year as journalists and guardians of our societies to think deeply about what you publish, and what you don’t publish. Don’t let your reporting be hijacked by economic threats or by ideological agendas. Defend the integrity of your reporting and the democracies that rely on you. Your organisation will be strengthened and respected as a result, and you could be responsible for saving the lives of many people around the world.

Posted by Meyer Mussry | Report as abusive
 

Dear David,You state that “..there was absolutely no intention on Reuters part to mislead the public….” but I don’t think it’s a question of Reuters intentions, but rather the fact that stringers have found Reuters relatively easy to penetrate and manipulate, particularly in an atmosphere where shocking images are financially lucrative for stringer and news agency alike, and in conflicts where manipulation of images is more powerful than rockets or grenades.Reuters is in the middle of a war zone not just when you have reporters in the field, but you are in the middle of a war zone right there sitting at your desk. You are a target.A question every editor and reporter should ask himself every 60 seconds is “How open am I to manipulation?”

Posted by Phil Beckman | Report as abusive
 

You resonse was about as swift as a slow turttle! More important you did serious damage to people, reputations and slanted the news at the expense of truth. While you have said that you have taken steps to prevent a reoccurance, what have you done to correct the damage that you already have caused?

 

Dear David. Is it not incredulous that complaints are made about a photograph showing more smoke after an Israeli air raid than actually occurred. It seems to me that the amount of smoke would depend when exactly the photo was shot. Do the complainants realise the amount of damage that was inflicted upon the State of Lebanon, not only in terms of infrastructure but also the tourism industry which has been virtually destoyed. There only concern is whether a photograph has been tampered with. How do they answer the question of the necessity to destroy everything in sight to remove the Hezbollah on the border with Israel ? More compassion and a little less nit-picking please. The State of Israel relies on the support of the USA (Billions of dollars each year), 98% of whom are non-jews. It’s time for more jaw-jaw and a little less war-war in the Middle East and start correcting the plight of half of Israel’s population, i.e. the Palestinians that have lived in refugee camps for the last 58 years. SHALOM

 

Thanks for all the comments on the Reuters 2007 calendar. I tackle this subject in a separate post. 

Posted by David Schlesinger | Report as abusive
 

This is in reference to Mr. Sayers comment (#39):1. Hezbollahthe focus of the conflicthas unequivocally vowed to push the Jews (not Israel) into the sea. Theyve made it expressly clear that theyre not interested in a jaw-jaw, as you so quaintly put it.2. If Lebanon would have been responsible enough to address the problem with Hezbollah then there would have been no need for Israel to stop the rocket attacks on her citizenry.3. The photographs are important. Jews are extremely sensitive with regard to propaganda and distortion about them. They have a right to be. Centuries of such libels led to endless pogroms and murder. It fueled the holocaust. Its fueling the present conflict.If, in this context, you fail to see the significance of the distorted photographs then with where does this place you historically? With whom do you stand?4. The Palestinians are not half of Israels population. They arent Israeli citizens. Nor do they even posses any such aspirations. The Palestinian Authority is an independent entity working to establish its own state.5. Lastly, and this, as opposed to my other comments, is meant to be personal: by the soul of my dead brother, who was murdered during one of those missile attacks on Israel by Hezbollahyoure sarcasm and vitriol are not at all appreciate. SHALOM yourself.

Posted by Martin | Report as abusive
 

Several people commenting on this posting seem to have the impression that Reuters delayed acting on this case, or tried to deny there was an issue.In fact, we investigated every allegation quickly, seriously and with an open mind.We terminated our relationship with the photographer and retracted the first of the photographs in question within 15 hours of bloggers alerting us to issues with it. We made a public statement immediately. We took further strong action over the next 24 hours after establishing that there were questions about whether a second photo had been altered.David Schlesinger

Posted by David Schlesinger | Report as abusive
 

Reuters has been a news source that I never questioned upon hearing news of any event worldwide. I hope that will never change.Thank you.Patricia Miller

Posted by Patricia Miller | Report as abusive
 

Lets see:-Adnan Hajj photo scandle : August 5, 2006-Reuters fires a top photo editor for the Middle East: January 18, 2007.Thats a fast response?Furthermore: only one editor? That seems rather odd. I sincerely hope that this wasnt just the usual sacrificial lamb as so often happens in these cases.Youll have to forgive my skepticism. You see, your organization allowed a lie to be published. A lie that was easily be identified by amateur bloggers.You understand that, in spite of your new policies, your organization is presently under more scrutiny than it has ever been. Adnan Hajj is not the one to blame for this.

Posted by Jon | Report as abusive
 

To some respect, Reuters has done a real service — it has shown the world that “news” (including photographic images) are really just products and are no more valid, objective and truthful than television commericals or magazine ads hawking toothpaste, mascara or frozen dinners. Reuters has not only lost credibility for itself but it has made a statement regarding the validity of all news stories and pictures from all agencies: “What we show you reflects the political opinion we would like to you have based upon our own predjudices and persuasions. It has nothing to do with truth, it has everything to do with politics and in influencing world opinion to suit ourselves.”Thanks for the education, Reuters.

Posted by Ellen | Report as abusive
 

I was happy (and maybe a little naive?) to hear of your efforts to improve accuracy of your mid-east photography and reporting. I wish you good luck in obtaining the intended results. A correctly informed citizenry is a prerequisite to the success of democracy, both at home and abroad, and you have a major role to play.

Posted by David Korenstein | Report as abusive
 

Re: Reuters’ “2007 Calendar”Dear Mr. Schlesinger: It’s not apparent that Reuters learned anything from its FAUXTOGRAPHY incident other than to watch out it doesn’t get cut publishing falsified photos. Othewise, using images in viciously bigoted and inappropriate manners bothers Reuters not at all. The problem is your organization’s vicious anti-Israel bias, not just an Arab photography stringer. Your stringer was not wrong: He knew exactly what you people wanted. Didn’t he? You all just got caught, that’s all.I reviewed Reuters so-called “2007 calendar.” Eleven images, mostly of nature, some of human achievements, and all non-political — except for ONE: The one that slams Israel as some “rights violator.” (Perhaps you people need to be the object of Arab/Moslem terror yourselves. I don’t really wish it on anyone, but, like the pre-WW2 pacifists who needed the Gestapo to get the message through to them, I can’t imagine another way that you would then publish another “retraction,” this one regarding your view that Israel has no right to defend its citizens.When such evident bias as Retuers’ is manifested, your reporting simply should not be trusted. When a “news” organization allows itself to show such a bigoted hand, it cannot be trusted on much else. After all, what other agenda is Reuters hiding? This is not a news-driven organization; it is agenda driven.Most sadly, even after the Holocaust, so many of you Europeans have not given up your preternatural resentment of Jews. You people have it so bad, you can’t even print a calendar straight, can you? WHAT IS YOUR EXPLANATION FOR THAT CALENDAR?! IT WAS NOT JUST A STRINGER OR A FLUNKY THAT APPROVED IT AND YOU KNOW IT. HOW HIGH DID APPROVAL OF THIS PIECE OF BIGOTRY GO AND WHO DID IT? As long as you are dumping your “news” on the public, the public needs to know who is doing what at Reuteres, and who is responsible in your very untrustworthy organization.Jarrow L. RogovinLos Angeles

Posted by Jarrow L. Rogovin | Report as abusive
 

For those who are so strident in their criticism of Reuters, I have just one simple question whose simple answer will, I suspect, be quite revealing.1)If you dont trust Reuters as a global news organization to give you the hard facts then who on earth do you turn to?Fox News or Al-Jazeera perhaps? Rush Limbaugh or Gore Vidal maybe? The Pentagon or Xinhua? Mossad or U.N. arms inspectors?I think that a straight answer to this question would give us some idea of precisely which axe it is these critics have to grind?Having stumbled across this site, I am baffled by the venom and vitriol with which some people here attack an organization that, it seems to me, at least tries to do the right thing even if it does trip up from time to time.In a world where language is increasingly spun beyond all recognition, we need to protect and encourage organizations such as Reuters more than ever before and, in doing so, get to the bottom of why some chose to attack them with a ferocity and guile that Goebbels or Stalin, Machiavelli or McCarthy would be proud of.But then again, it must be very frustrating, not to say unusual, to be confronted by a news organization that does not have a an owner or major shareholder who can be lobbied or bought and whose journalists would presumably work elsewhere if they needed a cause to promote, wanted their names up in lights or hoped to get rich quick.Yes Reuters screws up occasionally but lets put things in perspective for a moment. I presume that for every picture thats doctored or for every misplaced word thats printed, there are hundreds of thousands, maybe millions, that are not? And at least, unlike some of the critics here, they admit it when they’re wrong and have the courage to nail their relatively neutral colours to the post!

Posted by Gordon N. | Report as abusive
 

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