Monday, July 16, 2012

The BBC and "unbiased, citizen journalism"

When we were at the BBC last Thursday, I really wanted to bring this issue up, but I could not remember the exact details.

Remember the emphasis they put on "not paying photographers" and "relying on the citizens to provide images?"

Here is the start of the article:

The corporation has once again been caught pinching photos, wrongly attributing them, and pretending nothing ever happened - in a triumph of crowd-sourced "citizen journalism".
But this incident of photo-lifting is slightly more noteworthy than most: the BBC used a photograph taken nine years ago in Iraq to illustrate its story about the massacre at the weekend in Syria.
The photograph, taken in 2003 by photojournalist Marco Di Lauro and licensed to Getty Images, was passed on to the BBC by an anonymous source for propaganda purposes. Casting aside the diligence and thoroughness for which it's known, the BBC simply pushed it out onto its news website, giving the copyright credit to "an activist".

I have found the original link I read and would like to hear your comments.


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. Everyone makes mistakes. After all, we are only human, but the skeptic, within me, would like to question whether this was done as an accident or in an effort to garner publicity. I doubt the latter, as the BBC has, traditionally, been considered a reliable source of independent news, but it is interesting that the source was not named.

    This brings to mind an issue posed in class, today—the use of disturbing content to garner emotional reactions. In class, our discussion focused on the UGA Tate lobbyists, particularly the anti-abortion activists, and their use of unrelated images of genocide and stillbirths, as a tactic for garnering emotional responses and further activism. In conjunction with this topic, we discussed the effectiveness of these types of media. Many said that they took particular care to avoid Tate on days that they knew this protest would be occurring.

    However, the misuse of images by Tate protesters is in a completely different league than the misuse of a single photo by the BBC. The actions of those in Tate have limited effects, as it is a localized campaign, while the BBC has access to a much broader audience. At the same time, the Tate protestors purposely misuse photos, whereas the BBC’s blunder could very well be attributed to an oversight caused by carelessness in making a deadline.

    Regardless of the intent of the BBC’s photo usage, the public’s reaction was powerful enough to cause a spokesman for the BBC to respond to reporters with a retraction, of sorts.

    Seeing the powerful effects of a single image should lead us to question our journalistic ethics. What are appropriate means of playing on emotions and causing reactions, and how far is “too far?”

  3. But with such a international reputation as the BBC holds themselves up to, don't you think a mistake like this shouldn't happen? We are human, but the BBC is a corporation where a bunch of people make these decisions.

  4. It is unclear. One would think that would be the case, but, as I'm sure you know, as part of the staff for the Red & Black, a deadline is a deadline. Perhaps it was simply an oversight, but as I mentioned in my earlier comment, it is interesting that they chose to let the source remain anonymous.

    It seems that journalism is all about attribution. Perhaps this was done at the request of the provider, but at the same time, there is a possibility that this was done by the BBC, in an effort to remain aloof, while also being able to prompt public reaction.

    Regardless, it is a curiosity.