The Sunday Age, a loss-making newspaper within the Fairfax stable, appears to have digitally removed the Australian flag from a Reuters photograph of sailor Jessica Watson that it splashed across its front page in its most recent edition last Sunday.
Scandalously, it did not mark the image â€œdigitally alteredâ€ in the manner accepted across the news reporting industry. Nor did it apologise to the Aussie Diggers who fought so valiantly under the flag to protect Catherine Devenyâ€™s right to call a spade an effinâ€™ shovel.
Having removed the Australian flag from the image, the newspaper then super-imposed its girl-power headline over the fake sail.
VEXNEWS has obtained the original unaltered photograph as supplied to The Age by Reuters. The original clear shows that The Age has removed the Australian flag and faked the off-white sail where the flag used to be. This is considered highly unethical, according to the Press Council on the basis it can mislead readers.
As a beacon of high standards, in contrast to some, we believe it is our duty to point Sunday Ageâ€™s comrades to the following edict of the Australian Press Council in its Guideline 220:
The Council believes that a publication that uses a significantly altered picture that purports to illustrate the news (whether it be on the cover or in the body of the publication) should disclose in the picture caption or in a prominent position in the same edition the fact of that alteration. The form of the disclosure can be left to the editor of the publication to determine but it should be sufficient to bring the fact of the alteration to the notice of readers, so that none is misled as to the provenance of the image. If this is done properly, the Council would not normally entertain a complaint about the alteration.
In adjudicating a complaint (Adjudication No. 679) some years ago, the Council, in ruling on the use of file photographs to illustrate a story, made the comment, "Readers’ rights to be informed accurately could be served by greater care in the wording of captions to such photos taken from library files or, at the very least, by a notation, such as ‘file photo’, to describe their nature more accurately."
The Council believes a notation of similar wording accurately describing the significant alteration of a picture or the creation of a montage of different images would normally be sufficient for a publication to meet its ethical requirements.
Media insiders tell VEXNEWS that the Sunday Age would have been reluctant to draw attention to such an embarrassing alteration and thatâ€™s why they left off the â€˜digitally alteredâ€™ tagline. They clearly hoped no-one would notice. Too bad.
Sometimes a disclosure can be very embarrassing indeed. This week, the Age managed to report a story on state government funded junkets with the assistance of one of their reporters who himself was travelling as a guest of a state government department to Shanghai. If we were nicer to Brumby COS Dan Oâ€™Brien, perhaps heâ€™d send this struggling journalist to Sorrento, the real one, not the Ted Baillieu hang-out where you might bump into shady characters like Michael Kapel and Costas Socratous.
The Sunday Age, which massively underperforms both its Sydney Fairfax stablemate and its Melbourne competitor, the Sunday Herald Sun, is the constant subject of rumours about its imminent closure as a separate publication from the daily newspaper. It currently maintains a separate staff including the semi-retired Michael Bachelard, a known associate of wannabe Liberal politician Stephen Mayne and Melissa Fyfe who has acknowledged that she wears two hats of environmental activist and state political reporter.
There are several believed to be on the verge of leaving, including their Gallery scribe Josh Gordon, who has sniffed the wind and likely redundancies and is known to actively pursuing â€œother opportunities.â€
Who could blame him?