Is Your News Real?

250px-Adnan_Hajj_Beirut_photo_comparison

Image comparison: L: actual image. R: “Photoshopped” image published by Reuters in 2006.

By Mike Cronin

No matter how hard you try with diets, make-up, and exercises, you will never look as good as a celebrity or model in a magazine.  That’s because they don’t even look that good in real life! It takes professional make-up artists, photographers, and designers to produce such photos, but it doesn’t end there. Photoshop is used to alter almost all celebrity/model photographs:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YP31r70_QNM

Likewise, if you run the propaganda department for your local dictator, Photoshop is your best friend…if you can use it without botching the job:

http://www.thewire.com/global/2011/07/tour-worlds-worst-photoshop-propaganda/39932/

The motive for “Photoshopping” in the above cases is s clear: To improve on reality. In this next case, the motive for faking reality is not so clear. Several CNN and HLN reporters are in Phoenix covering the Jody Arias trial. Four of them are in the same place covering the same story. Two of them are in the same parking lot, a few yards apart.  So why do they conduct split-screen “satellite” interviews with each other as if they were on opposite sides of the country?  Perhaps because, while it does nothing for the story itself, it does pump up the visual “action” level:

http://www.thewire.com/national/2013/05/nancy-grace-ashleigh-banfield-cnn-parking-lot/64965/

While Photoshoping and adding “drama” with split screens may improve on reality, sometimes the “news” is just outright faked: In Nov of 1992, NBC Dateline ran a story about the alleged propensity of Chevrolet/GMC pick-ups to catch fire in a side-impact collision due to the placement of the fuel tanks. The video in the story included two “test” accidents. During one of the tests, flames did indeed erupt from one of the pick-ups. GM conducted its own investigation into the story and found that the contractors NBC had hired to set up the test accidents had rigged the trucks with model rocket motors to ensure there would be a fire if fuel leaked.  NBC aired an apology in February 1993, and several of the journalists involved in the story were fired or resigned:

http://www.nytimes.com/1993/02/10/us/nbc-settles-truck-crash-lawsuit-saying-test-was-inappropriate.html

The morals of the story:

1. Don’t base your self-image on a comparison against celebrities or models enhanced by professional image-makers.

2. Even the “news” is sometimes rigged to present you with a filtered and scrubbed reality. Watch skeptically.

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