Editors Don’t Look at Pictures?

When a picture of Iran’s recent missile tests hit the front pages of major US newspapers and made news services including the BBC, one thing was obvious at a glance. It was a fake, as a blog on the NY Times clearly shows (thanks to State of the Art where I first saw the story, although there is rather more about it and how it broke on PDN Newswire, as well as a later update on the story on PDN Pulse.)

An Irani Photoshop user had cloned in an extra missile, and it wasn’t a convincing job. One missile doesn’t look a lot different to another, but when several clouds of dust from the right hand missile appear identically and rather distinctively underneath the missile to its left it is a bit of an instant give-away.

(When I looked there were over 600 comments on the post, although I’ve not read them all. Some suggest there may have been further doctoring of the image.)

Yet though it was an obvious fake, not only did the picture fool Agence France Press, who picked it up from an Iranian Revolutionary Guard web site who picked it up and distributed it (and I rather doubt will be sending the licensing fees back to Iran), but editors at leading newspapers and web news sites.

If anyone in the media was seriously looking at photographs, the cloning would have been spotted immediately – it really is rather an amateur job as surely there must have been other images with the dust clouds at a different state from which they could have been borrowed – or a little intelligent reworking could have made them a less than perfect match. Of course it isn’t the only case of bad photo-manipulation – and State of the Art have also reported Fox News being caught badly uglifying a NY Times reporter recently, I think using one of the tools available for making a mess of your mates to post on your social networking site.

But the news is dominated by people whose business is words.

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