Responding To Rumor

(AP / CBS)
Rumors on the Internet seem to be pretty much a permanent part of the whole "new media" landscape. So questions about how mainstream news organizations handle them when they reach a fever pitch have come up before and will come up again. Well, one rumor was prolific enough in the blogosphere (and on everyone's other favorite repository of unsubstantiated speculation, talk radio) that three news agencies decided to respond to it publicly. And more than a few newspapers published their response. The speculation, which originated on the blog EU Referendum was that photographers from the Associated Press, Reuters and Agence France Press had staged photos of dead bodies from the Qana airstrikes. The argument was based mainly on varying time stamps of the photographs, which the blog documented in this post.Wrote the AP:
For example, the Web site draws attention to a photo by AP's Lefteris Pitarakis time stamped 7:21 a.m., showing a dead girl in an ambulance. Another picture, stamped 10:25 a.m. and taken by AP's Mohammed Zaatari, shows the same girl being loaded onto the ambulance. In a third, by AP photographer Nasser Nasser and stamped 10:44 a.m., a rescue worker carries the girl with no ambulance nearby.

The site suggests these events were staged for effect, a criticism echoed by talk show host Rush Limbaugh when he directed listeners to the blog on Monday.

As noted in the piece, Reuters "categorically rejects" the suggestion that the photos were staged and an AFP executive was stunned it was even a question. The AP also denied that photos were staged and offered an explanation about the time stamps:
The AP said information from its photo editors showed the events were not staged, and that the time stamps could be misleading for several reasons, including that web sites can use such stamps to show when pictures are posted, not taken.
The EU Referendum has since posted it's own response to AP's article, with which it is none too pleased. I'll leave it to you to ruminate on that whole argument. But it's certainly notable that the AP commissioned a story on the matter at all – and that the two other news outlets accused responded publicly as well. After all, there are a lot of conspiracy theories out there.

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