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And honest picture is worth 1,000 words

Adnan Hajj is the kind of guy that gives people like me a bad name.

For the uninitiated, Mr. Hajj was a photographer working for the Reuters news service, covering the battles between Israel and Hezbollah. I say was because Mr. Hajj was fired for digitally manipulating a couple of photographs - adding plumes of black smoke here, a couple of missiles from a plane there.

Several years ago, he might have been able to get away with it. But in the digital age, there's more eyes to see pictures, and it didn't take those eyes long to bust Mr. Hajj.

Then, it turns out, he wasn't alone.

Various websites have also picked out pictures from The New York Times and the Associated Press among others as staged or manipulated.

The web critics have even gone so far as to pick out some foreign culprits who are accused to having exploited babies and bodies to further their cause. In one of my favorites, a "rescue worker" in the first few frames becomes a staged "victim" in the final picture - complete with his baseball cap neatly tucked under his arm. He hasn't got a spec of dust on him, no sign of injury, but there he is: "mostly dead." (With a nod to Princess Bride.)

But why do I care?

It's simple. It infuriates me that a "professional" journalist would even try to get away with it. Did someone skip that journalism ethics class in college?

Look, I've been doing this a long time, and I've seen my fair share of fellow reporters and photographers set up photos to suit their needs - whether that need be manufacturing action or recreating a scene they missed.

Bottom line: It's lazy. It's unimaginative. It's dishonest.

(And, yeah, I'm standing tall and proud on my soapbox. I don't get up here very often, so give me a little slack up here this week.)

Sure the watermelon that was served up Saturday by the Watson-Brown Foundation was good, but there was another delicacy that stole the show.

Now, I have to be honest: I did not try the deep fried Oreos being offered up by one of the many vendors at the Tom Watson Watermelon Festival. But the cholesterol-caked cookies were all my co-worker Lynn Davidson could talk about Monday morning. Four of the little morsels were $2, she said, adding that she ate one and left the others for her kids.

But Lynn did bring one tidbit back to the office: the recipe for the artery attackers was apparently available on the internet.

Now if I can only figure out how to slip a bag of Oreos and a box of pancake batter past my wife. I guess this is one of those times I should be thankful she's "allergic" to the kitchen. At least that's what she keeps telling me.

Web posted on Thursday, August 17, 2006

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