Reuters Responds to Accusations Leveled at the Agency in the NY Times Lens Blog

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This is new. It’s not often you see one of the world’s largest news agencies take issue directly with one of the world’s largest newspapers, but that’s exactly what happen this week when an article on the New York Times Lens Blog prompted Reuters to respond directly.

The article in question, which we linked to earlier in the week, offered in-depth commentary on the well-known case of Molhem Barakat, the very young Reuters freelancer who died in Syria. But this wasn’t just another retelling of the story, the article was something of an exposé that accused Reuters of certain shady journalistic practices.

Reuters, wrote James Estrin and Karam Shoumali for the NY Times Lens blog, uses activists as stringers, has published staged photos and even released photos that were improperly credited… sometimes under pseudonyms. The article also accuses Reuters of providing inadequate safety and first aid training.

The first point Reuters does not deny. In fact, Reuters global editor Jim Gaines is quoted as saying that the agency uses activists “partly because they have access and partly because you have to be among friends to be safe,” admitting that it is not “‘general practice’ [to] inform subscribers that activists took the photos.”

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What they do take serious issue with is the accusation that photos were staged and/or improperly credited. In a statement sent to us by a Reuters spokesperson, Reuters Global Head of Communications Barb Burg writes:

Reuters has made it clear to The Times during their three months of reporting that their allegations were false, and we refuted in detail any specific examples of alleged wrongdoing that that they provided us.

Except for anonymous allegations backed by no specific examples, the story provides no evidence that Reuters photographers have staged photos in Syria or anywhere else. We looked into the matter carefully and found no such instances. Staging photos is a firing offense, and Reuters would take appropriate action if we became aware of any instances of staging.

You can read the full NY Times Lens Blog post by clicking here. And once you do, let us know what you think of the back and forth by dropping a line in the comments.

  • Fazal Majid

    The Judy Miller/Wen-Ho Lee/Jayson Blair Times has no credibility when impugning others’ journalistic standards.

  • As a guest


  • Videre Licet

    NYT accusing someone of shady journalistic practices? Seriously?

    Now that is rich…

  • Dexter Lane

    Ironically and unintentionally, all three commenters have undercut the presumed assumption behind their posts- that Reuters photogs haven’t stage their shots. That the NYT has had ethical lapses does not prove that what they report in this article is factually incorrect.

    Partisanship has always been part of reportage. Photography from the MIddle East is only the most transparent example. Simply google “pallywood” to see egregious examples of politically biased “reportage.” I know that this reference will arouse the ire of 9/10 of those reading this, but I prefer an attempt to reach the truth over the soft, willful prevarications of “political correctness.” That having been said, I’m sure that similar crimes against factual reporting originate on the Israeli side, it’s just that the “Pallywood” syndrome is more easily found on the net.

    To the three who posted before me- do any of you truly think that no Reuters photogs have staged photos in conflict zones (or elsewhere, for that matter)?

    Until the very real issue of photographer and news agency bias can be dealt with honestly, each of us should have our antennae up at most every news photo. Intentions, guidelines and standards do not ensure honesty.

  • Leif S.

    The NYT has, contrary to some who posted here, been among the more responsible media when it comes to working with photographers in conflict zones.

    The point about Blair et al is they fooled the Times and were fired and has nothing to do with their photography coverage.