July 22, 2010

Did BP Fake A Picture? Yes, But We Did Even Worse

bp photo.jpgwhat's wrong with this picture?  Answer: half of it is missing

Did BP fake a pic?

Yes.  Why?  Probably to make them look busy.  They placed it on their press page.

By now you've no doubt seen the original photo.  Where did you see it?  Think hard.  I saw the story about the photo being detected on Americablog in the Washington Post.  Is that where I saw the original?

wash post bp fake.JPG


Maybe I saw it on AP?  Chicago Tribune? LA Times? CBS?  Nope.  They either show you only the altered photo, or no photo at all-- just the headline, "What Did We Tell You: BP Is A Bunch Of Lying Bastards."

Where you see the original is on blogs.  Americablog detected the alteration, and have multiple shots of the original and a guide to alterations.  Gawker and Gizmodo are writing about the alterations, so the originals and details are there.  Why do I have to go to blogs to get a fuller story than on the Washington Post?

Sure, the news links to the original, but that's not the same thing.  If the news media was serious about being serious, they would ALWAYS present the altered photo along with the original; and NEVER simply as a scary headline.

bp altered and original.jpg
But if you do that, then there's no story.

There's no hesitation in showing both an original and the alteration when doing so tells the story they want to tell, e.g.:

(MSNBC) "Plus sized model 'shocked' at being made to look thinner"

msnbc model altered.jpg

New York Times:

nyt obama altered.jpgIn this NYT article, they quote from the apology from editor of The Economist:

I asked for [the alteration] because I wanted readers to focus on Mr. Obama, not because I wanted to make him look isolated. That wasn't the point of the story.
Maybe; but it was certainly the point of the New York Times story to show that he wasn't alone.

I chose these two examples not because of their power but because they both occurred this month.  It's not like there's been any time for standards and practices to change.

But showing both BP images simultaneously is dangerous.  On the one hand, it proves there was an alteration; on the other hand, it proves the news media is petty. "Are you guys just looking for any reason to jump on BP?"  Best just to show the alteration with a catchy title, and let the mind run with it.

The major American news outlets aren't writing a story about a picture that was altered, and the context of that alteration, and perhaps the cultural/political significance of that alteration in an objective manner befitting The Froth Estate.  They are instead writing a story that panders to the bottom level of American tastes, the populist meme of the day, "big business is screwing us!"  I already knew that; I guess I was hoping the press would be better.

Doing it this way gives the Post plausible deniability.  "We didn't lie to you, we just reported the facts.  We did our jobs admirably."  Yes.  You gave us all the tools we need to lie to ourselves.