Monday, August 07, 2006

Photos Are Not The Only Thing Reuters Doctors

I was reading Ann Althouse on the Reuters scandal:
Faking the photographs

Really crudely done photoshopping -- with obvious political intent -- has gotten past the editors at Reuters in the last few days. Quite apart from the dismaying ineptitude of missing the clear evidence of manipulation that bloggers will eagerly and easily throw in their faces, we should worry that there is much more subtle and expert use of photoshopping going on all the time. These recent incidents should wake us up and make us mistrust every photograph that is ever offered up as anything other than an imaginative illustration.
Then I remembered that photos are not the only thing Reuters fakes--they fake bylines too.

Back in July 2003
, Deanna Wrenn found her byline on a Reuters story that she did not write--and that Reuters refused to remove her name from. She provides the before & after of the article:
This is from a story that Reuters news service ran this week with my byline:

Jessica Lynch, the wounded Army private whose ordeal in Iraq was hyped into a media fiction of U.S. heroism, was set for an emotional homecoming on Tuesday. . . . Media critics say the TV cameras will not show the return of an injured soldier so much as a reality-TV drama co-produced by U.S. government propaganda and credulous reporters."
Got problems with that?

I do, especially since I didn't write it.

Here's what I sent last week to Reuters, a British news agency that compiles news reports from all over the world:

ELIZABETH--In this small county seat with just 995 residents, the girl everyone calls Jessi is a true heroine--even if reports vary about Pfc. Jessica Lynch and her ordeal in Iraq.

"I think there's a lot of false information about her story," said Amber Spencer, a clerk at the town's convenience store.

Palestine resident J.T. O'Rock was hanging an American flag and yellow ribbon on his storefront in Elizabeth in preparation for Lynch's return.

Like many residents here, he considers Lynch a heroine, even if newspaper and TV reports say her story wasn't the same one that originally attracted movie and book deals.

What I typed and filed for Reuters last week goes on in that vein. They asked me if they could use my byline, which I had typed at the beginning of the story I sent, and I said that would be no problem.
Eventually, the article went through a number of revisions, till some incidental sentences of Wrenn's that appeared at the end had been totally removed.
By Tuesday night, the quote was gone and Reuters was siphoning information from television reports. The beginning of the story was toned down. The part about "media fiction" was removed. But even then, my byline remained.

I understand that news wire services often edit, add, remove or write new leads for stories. What amazed me was that a story could have my byline on it when I contributed only a few sentences at the end--and in later versions I didn't contribute anything at all.

The stories contained apparently fresh material attributed to sources I did not interview.

Maybe that's the way that wire service works.
Or Reuters.

Althouse wrote, "These recent incidents should wake us up and make us mistrust every photograph that is ever offered up as anything other than an imaginative illustration."

Every photograph?

Ann Althouse is an optimist.

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