Reuters Caught with Doctored Lebanon Photo, Again

August 28th, 2006 12:50 AM

You would think that Reuters learned its lesson about publishing to the world photos doctored to create a false image. After all, they were caught with multiple false photos from Lebanon, and had to take down more than 900 images from one stringer. Reuters promised it would have "experienced editors" look at all such photos in the future.

Has Reuters kept that promise? Apparently not.

Today, 26 August 2006, Reuters ran a photo captioned: "A French United Nations vehicle drives past a photo of Hizbollah leader .... Nasrallah, in Tyre...." The power of the photo is that the poster-sized image of a smiling Nasrallah is looking right at, and smiling at, an apparently white flag flying on the French vehicle.

But that impression is false. The flag isn't white. As bloggers have noted, the contrast on this photo has been punched up to turn light blue into white. The UN helmets which are actually light blue, seem white with slight shadows. The "white" flag is actually a back-lit, blue, UN flag. Confirmation of the doctoring of this photo is that the background of the poster in the upper right has entirely disappeared, so its black words seem to float in a "white" sky.

Did the "experienced editors" at Reuters simply miss the doctoring of this photo, to create a scene different from what the photographer was supposely capturing? Did the Reuters editors spot the doctoring, but let the photo go through so a false photo that agrees with that many Americans think, would balance off the dozens of prior Reuters photos with an opposite bias?

Either way, it doesn't work. Reuters is still publishing photos that offer compelling images, which on close examination turn out to be false. The learning curve of Reuters editors seems to be flat.