Sunday, January 02, 2005

La Vanguardia has committed the worst, stupidest screwup you can possibly imagine. On Friday they ran two big color pictures on the front page showing a group of people standing on a beach and then trying to run away as a huge wave comes in on them. The captions labeled the photos as having been taken December 26, the day of the tsunami, in Indonesia. Newspapers around the world contacted them in order to get the rights to the photos.

Today the shit hit the fan. They were hoaxed. Some guy who is supposedly a Spanish businessman out there e-mailed them these photographs that they printed. He, in turn, had supposedly received them from an Indonesian company he has contacts with. Turns out the pictures are from a typhoon in China two years ago. Their excuse is they did a lame-ass fact-checking job--they assumed the photos were legit because the guy didn't ask for any money, and they did determine that the photos hadn't been Photoshopped. Here's part of the fun: they learned later on Friday, that very day, that the photos were not what La Vanguardia had claimed they were, but they didn't get around to running the correction until today. Our hard-working ombudsman, Josep María Casasús, did not mention the incident in his column today, though he had all of Saturday to write up his piece. (He did write about his journey to Villalba, Lugo, on November 20, 2004, where he was present at the XV Congress of Communication of the Xunta de Galicia along with two other ombudspersons.)

La Vanguardia ran the correction in a small box on the front page below the fold and printed a more ample story on page eight. Remember when the Daily Mirror got caught over those fake photos of British troops "torturing" Iraqis? When it hit the fan they printed a screamer headline all over the front page saying "Sorry, we were hoaxed". I believe some important people resigned over it. Of course, CBS News had to run a massive apology, Dan Rather in person, when they ran that fake story about George Bush's National Guard service, and Rather was forced to resign. Two big powerful guys at the New York Times resigned over the Jayson Blair fake stories scandal. Heads rolled at the BBC after they got caught running bogus information about the Iraq War.

What do you think's going to happen at La Vanguardia? Probably Casasús will come out next week with some excuse about how it wasn't really their fault and they were just trying to do what such a fine upstanding organization as theirs does, which is run sensationalistic graphics guaranteed to shock and thrill their readers without bothering to check if it's true...oops, I mean inform their readers of important events around the world.

What he did this week was run some long gassy words full of nothing while he justified his lack of any action at all regarding the opinions that La Vanguardia's reporters print as facts in every story that they write. According to him, if he did anything, that would be censorship, and if you don't like it sue us. The last line was, "We must not forget that the press has a commitment to values of liberty, justice, and truth that justify it as the ethical motor of solidarity and progress."

What a worthless bag of wind this man is. And if he doesn't like it, he can sue me.

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