Monday, August 21, 2006

Have I Got News for You

I'm not much of a journalist. Not in the Matthew Halton sense, anyway. I'm far more comfortable pontificating from my ergonomic chair than documenting truth from a seedy hotel room on the other side of the world. But I hold my colleagues in the highest regard. Despite some recent allegations from the blogging world of photo-tampering, and even an admission from Reuters that a few photos had been photoshopped by a Lebanese photographer named Adnan Hajj, the industry as a whole cannot be condemned. Reuters uses hundreds of photographers and processes thousands of images every week. To their credit, they immediately admitted the problem, and are looking into ways to prevent this from happening again. The admission of error was an acknowledgement that the system isn't perfect, but improvable. I'm not sure if we could ask for more. Frankly, I'm more concerned about agencies like AP that won't even admit the possibility that some photographers take advantage of their craft to promote a personal agenda, let alone acknowledge media bias at the editorial level.

A number of websites continue to examine and discuss media manipulation by Hezbollah (and others) during the recent war in Lebanon. EU Referendum was one of the first to suggest that photos and video taken in Qana after an Israeli attack had been stage-managed. I watched some of the video available:

Having worked in the television industry for 20 years, I have no doubt that a so-called rescue worker is 'directing' the scene. His hand signals to the camera operator are unmistakable. That's not to insinuate that there were no victims of the attack. But this violation of truth, and others, have left me understandably cynical. I should say, more cynical. When I first graduated, I spent a week as camera assistant with a major Canadian broadcaster. I was disturbed to see the camera operator manipulate objects in view during interviews, or ignore certain images that may recast the story the wished to present. I'd like to think this isn't the norm, but I know it happens.

Still, I'm confident most journalists endeavour to maintain integrity and objectivity, even if a few are corrupt. It's also worth noting that every year, dozens of journalists pay the ultimate price to keep us informed. In 2005, 65 reporters and photo-journalists were slain for the crime of seeking truth. Twenty-five journalists have already been killed this year. Although some have died in combat zones, the vast majority were murdered by agents of a repressive government. This is, of course, one of the most insidious peculiarities of news gathering: it's simply impossible to report from exactly those places where the news is most compelling. In terms of Israel, there are probably more reporters per square foot than anywhere in the world. It's a beautiful, safe country that enjoys and respects freedom of the press. Sadly, the same can't be said of its neighbours. This was especially evident last month, with even mainstream journalists admitting they were compromised by Hezbollah restrictions and threats. But, then 'Truth' has always been subjective. "Everything we hear is an opinion, not a fact. Everything we see is a perspective, not the truth." (Marcus Aurelius, 121-180 CE)