August 28, 2006

Hoping for Transparency, But Expecting the Norm

Mary Katharine Ham has a new column up at discussing the "Fauxtography" scandals and the journalistic malpractice in Greg Mitchell's 2003 column that I highlighted over the weekend.

I should hope that Editor & Publisher's parent company VNU Media follows David Perlmutter's suggested option on how to handle similar scandals:

News picture-making media organizations have two paths of possible response to this unnerving new situation. First, they can stonewall, deny, delete, dismiss, counter-slur, or ignore the problem. To some extent, this is what is happening now and, ethical consideration aside, such a strategy is the practical equivalent of taking extra photos of the deck chairs on the Titanic.

The second, much more painful option, is to implement your ideals, the ones we still teach in journalism school. Admit mistakes right away. Correct them with as much fanfare and surface area as you devoted to the original image. Create task forces and investigating panels. Don't delete archives but publish them along with detailed descriptions of what went wrong. Attend to your critics and diversify the sources of imagery, or better yet be brave enough to refuse to show any images of scenes in which you are being told what to show. I would even love to see special inserts or mini-documentaries on how to spot photo bias or photo fakery—in other words, be as transparent, unarrogant, and responsive as you expect those you cover to be.

The stakes are high. Democracy is based on the premise that it is acceptable for people to believe that some politicians or news media are lying to them; democracy collapses when the public believes that everybody in government and the press is lying to them.

While Perlmutter was specifically talking about photojournalism, the same principles apply to print journalism as well. VNU Media would be wise to opt for a transparent investigation.

We should know just how seriously they value their credibility by their action or inaction later today.

Posted by Confederate Yankee at August 28, 2006 08:40 AM | TrackBack

Is it possible that the vehicle was entirely rusted out, only to be painted over by Reuters hastily (w/o removing the rust), so that when it got hit, the blast simply ripped off the paint, exposing the pre-existing rust?

Posted by: Bret at August 28, 2006 11:13 AM

Sorry, wrong thread.

Posted by: Bret at August 28, 2006 11:17 AM