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May 14, 2004

MIRROR EDITOR GONE OVER FAKED IRAQ PHOTOS:

Daily Mirror editor Piers Morgan has been sacked following pressure over faked photos of soldiers abusing an Iraqi prisoner.

The Queen's Lancashire Regiment earlier told a press conference the Mirror had to apologise for running the pictures and endangering British troops.

A statement from the Mirror said it had fallen victim to a "calculated and malicious hoax". The Mirror board said it would be "inappropriate" for Morgan to continue. . . .

Deputy leader and foreign affairs spokesman, Michael Ancram, said: ''Looking at the facts objectively, this is the right thing for Piers Morgan to have done.

"The photos that were published in the Daily Mirror have done great damage to the reputation of our troops, who are serving under some of the most difficult conditions in Iraq.''

Earlier Colonel Black, a former regiment commander of the QLR, said the pictures put lives in danger and acted as a "recruiting poster" for al-Qaeda.

Meanwhile, here's the Boston Globe's ombudsman on its own fake-photo scandal. They're still not coming right out and admitting that the photos are bogus, though. But there's this: "We are not firing anybody." Here's a story from Editor & Publisher, too.

Dan Kennedy has more, and observes:

Where [Globe ombudsman] Chinlund falls short is in her narrowly stubborn insistence that because she couldn't find the porn photos on the Internet, she can't verify that Turner and Kambon were indeed passing off porn shots as evidence of American atrocities.

Indeed. Read the whole thing.

I remain surprised that this has gotten relatively little attention from the media-ethics watchdogs. Somehow I think that if FoxNews were snookered by porn we'd be hearing more about it.

UPDATE: Reader Matt Walter emails:

While the Ombudsman for the Globe does not say the photos are bogus, she
does say they are "unauthenticated". She blames miscommunications,
deadlines, and all the other usual stuff, but I sent her a letter asking her
a simple question:

"Would the Globe have been as careless about authenticity, fact-checking and communication if we were talking about pictures purporting to show Senator Kennedy doing beer bongs on Chappaquiddick in 1969?"

Because if she wants some, I can make some up and have them to her post
haste.

Heh. Meanwhile Stephen O'Brien emails:

Recurring theme: If the Globe had anyone in the newsroom even vaguely familiar with the military they would have immediately recognized the photo as fake. It wasn't even a close fake. Since when are the soldiers in Baghdad wearing woodland green? And the haircuts? The footwear? They didn't even try to make it realistic, and the Globe took it hook, line and sinker. It's like a Rorschach test: you see what you want to see.

This isn't the first time military ignorance has led to humiliation for media outlets. And reader Douglas Morris notes a real-world example of media skepticism when it suits their purpose:

In your bits on what verification the Boston Globe, et al., would employ for a Kennedy tryst, howzabout the immediate denunciations that happened with that Jane Fonda & John Kerry PhotoShopped pic?

Yeah, they didn't run that one without checking.

STILL MORE: Here's Cosmo Macero's column from the Boston Herald on this event, which he's posted on his blog so that you can read it without subscribing:

Globe editor Martin Baron deserves credit for acting quickly.

Yet the original decision - by three unnamed desk editors - to publish the photo and story suggests a significant breakdown in institutional news judgment on Morrissey Boulevard.

Even the most rookie radio producers in Boston know when to pull the plug on Sadiki.

Moreover, Slack's copy should have triggered a kill switch - loaded as it was with expressed doubts about the photos' authenticity. . . .

The story may just have been too good a fit with the Globe's news agenda to pass up - a localized angle on the outrage over actual abuses committed by U.S. soldiers at Abu Ghraib.

But you've got to know when you're being had.

Indeed. And it's perhaps worth noting here -- as Dan Kennedy does in the item linked above -- that the Globe's editorial on this event is more forthright than the ombudsman column.