The end of authenticity and the rise of skepticism
Ivan Amato's eight year old article describes the history of digital image manipulation from its beginnings as an esoteric, gee-whiz type application to a capability now almost literally within the reach of everyone.
it's becoming simple and cheap enough to spread everywhere. And that has some observers wondering whether real-time video manipulation will erode public confidence in live television images, even when aired by news outlets.
Last fall, for instance, CBS hired PVI to virtually insert the network's familiar logo all over New York City on buildings, billboards, fountains and other places-during broadcasts of the network's The Early Show. The New York Times ran a front-page story in January raising questions about the journalistic ethics of altering the appearance of what is really there. ...
The scenario Amato warned against became real during the Hezbollah/Israel war of 2006 when stringers began to circulate faked or staged images showing atrocities which may or may not have happened. What Amato failed to anticipate in 2000 was that the very same Internet which he feared would spread of disinformation would partly compensate by increasing the degree of scrutiny to which 'news' stories were subjected. Spotting "fauxtography" became a mass participation sport which reddened more than a few newsroom faces.
Since then the Internet, and in particular the blogosphere, has become an unofficial part of the news cycle. It's importance at fact checking has now reached the stage where it is relevant to ask whether with the availability of so many digital image and audio manipulation techniques to fraudsters any meaningful 'news' is still possible without the accompanying near real-time analysis by Internet pundits. The day-after scrutiny has become so much a part of the 'news' generation process that news would be significantly less reliable without it. Whether the task consists in noticing that Barack Obama is shaded too black in a Hillary Clinton campaign ad or observing that 'missiles' found in Afghan ruins are really unexploded 155 mm artillery shells, no major news story is accepted out of the box any more until it is prodded, poked and assayed.
When the blogosphere debunked Scott Beauchamp's reportage at New Republic, they were doing the editors not a disservice, but a favor. The plasticity of the video, audio and print record of events now means that traditional editors need an active an skeptical audience to tell them if their own sources are telling the truth.
'All bugs are shallow to many eyes' versus 'there are none so blind as they who will not see'.
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