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Photo Captions Need Corrections

John on August 9, 2006 at 1:53 pm

In scouring the photos coming from Lebanon, one of the things I’ve noticed is that they sometimes include information that is later retracted or corrected. For intance, here is a page of five photos published July 30th, the day of the Qana attacks. All of the photos are by Reuters photographer Issam Kobeissi. All depict attacks on the UN complex in Beirut and all have the same caption:

caption1.jpg

The same day, the AFP publishes photos with captions that up the number. Here’s one that says “at least 51″ were killed:

caption2.jpg

I won’t paste them all in, but there are many more examples with varying death tolls given.

  • This one by AFP claims 52 died.
  • This one by AFP says the same but in different language.
  • Here’s an AP photo with a caption claiming “an Israeli airstrike in Qana that killed up to 50 refugees.”
  • Different photos, same caption here and here.
  • Reuters again with a caption that reads “An Israeli air strike killed 54 Lebanese civilians, including 37 children, on Sunday.”
  • Different photos, same caption as above here, here and here.

There are literally dozens more. It seems as if photos released by the big agencies at a given time are often given identical captions.

Adding this sort of information to the caption is meant to provide proper context for the images in question. Why are people rioting? Because they’re angry about an airstrike that killed civilians. But if AP, AFP and Reuters are going to get specific and give death toll estimates, shouldn’t they have to correct those estimates when they turn out to be wrong?

Of course those figures did turn out to be wrong, and not just slightly. The death toll at Qana was cut nearly in half to 28. It’s still a significant number of non-combatant deaths, more than enough to justify some legitimate outrage. However, there’s no justification for claiming a body count nearly double what we now know to be the case.

Yesterday the NY Times corrected a caption after Michelle Malkin and Opinion Journal found an error in an online feature. The LA Times online corrections page goes back about three months. In that time I count 25 corrections to photo captions, including things like misidentifiying members of the band The Go-Gos. If that’s worthy of a correction, shouldn’t the death toll figures at Qana be corrected as well? AP, AFP and Reuters sent out the captions. They should correct the record.

Update 8/10: As the picture below clearly shows, Reuters does indeed issue caption corrections for their photos.

captioncorrection.jpg

These are five pictures of a little girl who — it was originally claimed — was killed by an Israeli airstrike. In reality it turned out her death was a playground accident. A tragedy to be sure, but not international news. So it appears Reuters is getting the message, but a quick look at this page will show that while Yahoo has posted this caption correction tile, it hasn’t actually corrected any of the captions in the photos themselves.

I’ve contacted Reuters to ask about this and also to ask if they issued a caption correction on the Qana death estimates noted above and if not, why not.

Update 2: Reuters is issuing caption corrections for all sorts of things, including some fairly trivial (the fact that Heidi Klum is pregnant with her THIRD child). Some are more significant. Note the photo below. The caption has been corrected to reflect the fact that the girl pictured was in the hospital for scheduled surgery and not — as I presume the caption claimed before — as the result of a war related injury.

captioncorrection2.jpg

Given the sort of things being corrected, I can’t understand why the Qana death toll figures would go uncorrected.

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Category: MSM & Bias |

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