Tue - 16.01.2018

Bad image: BBC makes two errors with pictures

Bad image: BBC makes two errors with pictures

“Citizen Media is the new form of a newswire, often quicker than anything else,” said Riyaad Minty, Al Jazeera’s head of social media, in an email exchange with WAN-IFRA earlier this year.

This may be true, but dealing with content from the Internet requires high standards of authentication, and sometimes even big players mess up. During the past week, the BBC has become a case in point. It has made two mistakes with sourcing its images – one serious, one merely embarrassing.

The major error came when the BBC mistakenly used an image taken in Iraq in 2003 to accompany an online story about the recent massacre in Houla, Syria. As Poynter reports, the caption to the photo, shown on the BBC’s website, read, “this image – which cannot be independently verified – is believed to show the bodies of children in Houla awaiting burial.” The picture was credited to an anonymous “Activist.”

However, as the Telegraph reported, the image was actually the work of Marco di Lauro, a photographer for Getty Images. Di Lauro took the picture, which shows a child jumping over rows of body bags, in a desert to the south of Baghdad on March 27, 2003, writes the paper.

The Telegraph quotes di Lauro, who said he was “astonished” that “a news organization like the BBC doesn't check the sources and it's willing to publish any picture sent it by anyone: activist, citizen journalist or whatever.”

But the author of the Poynter article, Craig Silverman, defends the BBC’s verification process, writing, “The BBC has a very good team working at its User Generated Content Hub. They focus on sourcing and verifying content that surfaces on social media, or is sent in by activists or unofficial sources.”

The Telegraph also cites a BBC spokesman, who said the organisation had used the image “with a clear disclaimer saying it could not be independently verified,” adding, “efforts were made overnight to track down the original source of the image and when it was established the picture was inaccurate we removed it immediately.”

The error is serious, but of course the reason why the BBC has such difficulty in getting accurate images from Syria is that it’s almost impossible for reporters to enter the country. According to CNN, UN officials estimate that more than 9,000 people have died in Syria since March 2011. The Committee to Protect Journalists reports that nine journalists have been killed there since the conflict began. Earlier this month, Reporters Without Borders reported that citizen journalist Mohammed Abdelmawla al-Hariri was sentenced to death after giving an interview to Al Jazeera, on accusations of “high treason and contacts with foreign parties.”

But even in mundane cases, the BBC still can, and does, get images wrong. The Guardian reports that the BBC mistakenly used a logo from the computer game Halo in a News at One bulletin last week. As the paper describes, a reference to the UN Security Council was accompanied by the logo for the United Nations Space Command – a fictional military agency that is part of the computer game. The mistake was quickly recognised, and the image was removed from later bulletins, but not before the clip was uploaded to YouTube, as the Guardian reports.

According to the paper, a BBC spokesperson apologised to viewers, adding, “BBC News makes every effort to ensure the accuracy of all images broadcast. However, very occasionally mistakes do happen.”

Sources: Poynter, Telegraph, CNN, IFEX, The Guardian, Editors Weblog, CPJ


Hannah Vinter


2012-05-29 17:54

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