Monday, August 07, 2006

Fake News: The Only News You Can Trust?

All aflutter today, Reuters announced that it was pulling all 920 photographs by freelance Lebanese photographer Adnan Hajj after it was discovered that he had digitally altered at least two of the photographs depicting the ongoing conflict in Lebanon.

A public that is increasingly skeptical of the perceived slant of traditional news outlets is unlikely to become more trusting when it's unable to authentic even the raw data - images and the like - that it is being presented with. And that's one reason why fake news is so much less stressful and, let's face it, appealing to viewers. Rather than worry about bias or authenticity, when the Jon Stewarts and Stephen Colberts of the world read you the news, you can rest assured you're getting the exact same standard of truthiness each and every night. Which is to say, not a whole lot.

Finally, the Reuters flap takes me back to a Washington Post editorial from this past spring by Michael Kinsley, "The Twilight of Objectivity." There Kinsley suggested (and I'm sure he's not alone in this) that, just perhaps, it is time for mainstream media to move ever-so-slowly away from its faithful (and some would argue futile) attempts at objective reporting.

I can't imagine that the move from objective journalism to opinion journalism would be as painless as Kinsley seems to suggest, and it certainly wouldn't free journalists to alter basic facts as Mr. Hajj apparently did, but as our skepticism of traditional news sources increases, perhaps a reputation for objective reporting will soon be as quixotic as in-fact objective reporting.

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