How low can press standards go? Marvin Olasky August 17, 2006

Try on this exciting photo caption: “A Hezbollah PR man poses for dramatic effect in front of a tire fire.”

That’s what the caption for the cover photo of the July 31 edition of U.S. News and World Report should have read. The caption that actually ran was “A Hezbollah gunman aims his AK 47 at a fire caused by an explosion in Kfarshima, near Beirut.” The magazine suggested that the explosion came from a shot-down Israeli aircraft hitting the ground, but bloggers showed that the photo was of tires burning in a garbage dump after a misfired Hezbollah missile hit them.

Now that Israel-Hezbollah War I is over (with War II likely to begin as soon as Hezbollah rearms), we can review in peace an enormous breakdown in already shaky press standards. Big newspapers and magazines have in the past taken a hard line against the staging and doctoring of photos. Last month the Charlotte Observer fired a photographer for changing the color of the sky in a picture of firefighters. Three years ago the Los Angeles Times also terminated an employee for photo manipulation in Iraq. But the response of press lords to massive photographic fraud in Lebanon this month has been astoundingly lackadaisical.

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