Wednesday, April 18, 2007

We Can't Handle the Truth? (continued)

I met Michael for coffee after work last night. Of course, we immediately started talking about the horrible tragedy in Blacksburg, Virginia, catching up on the latest details from the day. (Do you like "Mr. Brownstone" better, or "Richard McBeef"?) Then my guy asked me if I was working on any interesting blog stories for Wednesday, to which I told him one had me really worked up. It's an unpleasant topic, but I feel it's symptomatic of much bigger things.

You see, a co-worker of mine and I were flipping through The New York Post when she noticed that they had clearly altered one of the widely circulated photos from the immediate aftermath of the shooting spree. She was pretty flabbergasted as she pulled up the untouched version and asked me if I saw anything different from the one in The Post. At a glance, I didn't. (I was never very good at that What's Different game in Highlights magazine, either.) Then she pointed to what appears to be the young man's penis sticking out of his boxers as he is be dragged to safety. I couldn't believe my eyes. Here was "Fox News" owner Rupert Murdoch's paper blatantly manipulating reality -- once again -- with no qualms about it. Michael rolled his eyes at me -- which didn't entirely surprise me, he's not a journalist -- but it only served to make me more indignant. I said I know what he's thinking (they're trying to protect the kid's privacy) and I understand why they would want to do what they did. (Since when have they shied away from using one of those black bars, anyway?) But that's not the point here. In journalism, no matter how awful it is, you just can't go and try to change the truth. Not only is it dishonest and unethical, it's truly frightening. If a news organization can change what is being presented to the public as a factual photographic account of an event -- even if it was probably done out of deference to an injured or possibly deceased young man -- what is there to stop the media from altering other news whenever they see fit to do so? And if the editors of The New York Post didn't like what the photo depicted, then don't run it. Plain and simple. Or crop it, as was done by other news organizations.

You'd think that six years into an administration that presents lies as facts on an everyday basis would have desensitized me to this type of thing. But the idea that a major American newspaper thinks it's OK "to Photoshop" a news image into what they want it to be still truly makes me sick.

UPDATE: The young man in the photo is alive and recuperating. An article in the Times Dispatch says the former Eagle Scout "may have saved his own life" by using a tourniquet on his twice-shot leg. (Read)