Rupert Murdoch’s Fox News has been caught red-handed using digitally altered photos in its coverage of a section of the city that has become a centre of protest against police brutality and racial injustice.
On Saturday, Fox News included an editor’s note at the top of at least three stories on its website covering Seattle’s Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone (CHAZ), saying it replaced a “home page photo collage” because it “did not clearly delineate between these images” and that it “mistakenly” included a Minnesota photo in a slideshow about Seattle.
The largely peaceful zone has drawn the ire of President Donald Trump, who fumed on Twitter that the city had been taken over by “anarchists”.
Seattle Mayor says, about the anarchists takeover of her city, “it is a Summer of Love”. These Liberal Dems don’t have a clue. The terrorists burn and pillage our cities, and they think it is just wonderful, even the death. Must end this Seattle takeover now!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 12, 2020
The Seattle Times reported Fox News’ website featured at least two photos that amplified Mr Trump’s accusations – in one case inserting an image of a man standing with a military-style rifle
There were no disclaimers the images had been manipulated when featured on the network’s website prior to Saturday.
The unidentified gunman was lifted from a Getty Images photo taken on June 10 at the CHAZ protest area. But the original photo showed him leaning against a car.
Fox’s website used that gunman’s image for the network’s coverage of the protest zone, but the image was also included in a mashup of other photos from May 30 that depicted smashed windows in downtown Seattle — before the protest zone was set up and in a different neighbourhood.
Fox took down the photos after the newspaper inquired, and a Fox News spokeswoman acknowledged the issue in a statement that falsely claimed all photos were from the same week and the same location.
“We have replaced our photo illustration with the clearly delineated images of a gunman and a shattered storefront,” the Fox statement said.
The ethical standards of journalism require photo illustrations to be clearly marked, and caution used against using photos from different times and locations unless they are clearly marked because it can be misleading to the reader or viewer.
The gunman image was also inserted into a different June 10 Getty Images photo showing a sign from the protest zone that reads: “YOU ARE NOW ENTERING FREE CAP HILL.”
The gunman and sign photos were taken by Seattle freelance photographer David Ryder, who then distributed the photo through Getty Images.
“It is definitely Photoshopped,” Ryder told the newspaper.
“To use a photo out of context in a journalistic setting like that seems unethical.”
The Seattle Times also reported that Fox’s package of stories on Seattle’s protest zone included a May 30 photo taken by an Associated Press photographer depicting a burning building and car that was in Minnesota. Fox has also since removed that image.
The CHAZ occupation, east of downtown Seattle, has evolved this week into a festival-like scene after police on June 8 removed barricades near the East Precinct and largely abandoned the station in an effort to de-escalate tensions between officers and demonstrators.
Meanwhile, a US judge on Friday ordered Seattle police to temporarily stop using tear gas, pepper spray and flash-bang devices to break up largely peaceful protests.