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Reuters steps up scrutiny of Middle East pix

By announcing new editing procedures for pictures from the Middle East, Reuters has admitted its own culpability in the distribution of the doctored picture from Beirut.

It is always easy to look at something after the event and say it should have been spotted. But the Photoshopping of the picture of smoke rising over the city is so obvious it should have been recognised by the most junior member of the picture desk staff.

The tell-tale signs of clumsy use of the clone tool can be identified at first glance. They should have been.

Yet it was left to bloggers, in particular Charles Johnson at Little Green Footballs who said:

This Reuters photograph shows blatant evidence of manipulation. Notice the repeating patterns in the smoke; this is almost certainly caused by using the Photoshop “clone” tool to add more smoke to the image.

It’s so incredibly obvious, it reminds me of the faked CBS memos. Smoke simply does not contain repeating symmetrical patterns like this, and you can see the repetition in both plumes of smoke. There’s really no question about it.

It is amazing that the freelance photographer, Adnan Hajj, thought he could get away it. It is equally amazing that it was not spotted on the Reuters picture desk or any other picture desk which saw the image. It was left to bloggers for blow the whistle on something which should never escaped from the office.

The Guardian quotes Tom Szlukovenyi, the Reuters global picture editor saying:

There is no graver breach of Reuters standards for our photographers than the deliberate manipulation of an image.

Reuters has zero tolerance for any doctoring of pictures and constantly reminds its photographers, both staff and freelance, of this strict and unalterable policy.

The agency says filing drills in Lebanon have been tightened and only senior staff will now edit pictures from the Middle East on the global pictures desk. There will be a final check by the editor-in-charge.


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