Sunday, September 16, 2007

A bad week for photos

A couple of days ago Chenthil spotted a gem in The Hindu's correction section. Explaining why a photograph of African elephants was captioned "An elephant herd on the prowl in the plains of Kodagu district", the Reader's Editor wrote:
The correspondent clarifies that the error occurred as the picture was downloaded from a website by a photographer who was ignorant of the difference between an African and an Asian elephant.

So, as Chenthil observes, the job of photographers at The Hindu seems to be to download photos from the web, and use them without attribution (and without even checking what it is they represent: even if they were Indian elephants, how did the "photographer" know they were prowling the plains of Kodagu? In fact, since when did elephants, of any species, prowl?)

As it happens, that correction -- on Friday -- was the third relating to photos in a week. On Wednesday, we had this:
A reader said that the photograph in the page 1 promo “Solar plane’s record” (Early editions, September 11, 2007) was not that of the solar plane. The story, which was a detailed graphic used in the “International” page, was on the “Zephyr UAV smashing the flight duration record”. The reader is right. The promo picture was that of an MQ-9 Reaper...

And on Tuesday, there was this:
In an article “Many firsts to her credit”, a profile of Dr. Muthulakshmi Reddi (The Hindu-Magazine September 9, 2007, page 5), the photograph captioned "Tough Act: Dr. Muthulakshmi Reddi" is that of Sarojini Varadappan.

I cannot locate the mislabelled MQ-9 Reaper; the article on Dr Muthulakshmi Reddi is here, and as usual, the photo has no credit. Even if it were a file photo from The Hindu's own collection, should it not be credited to the original photographer? But then, if the photo were from a documented and authoritative source such as The Hindu's own files, it would not be likely that the caption would be incorrect.

When our mainstream media -- including our most pretentious newspaper -- decides that it is correct and appropriate to download photos from random sources on the internet and use them without attribution, why would our children learn any better? Why am I surprised when students -- and even faculty -- cut-and-paste from other sources, without attribution?


Tabula Rasa said...

a friend of mine and one-time acquaintance of yours made a mark in bollywood recently. google-image his name and you will find he shares it with an amateur cricketer in texas. guess whose picture went on to the TOI feature about him.

Rahul Siddharthan said...

Amusing. I googled images and, yes, the cricketer does seem to have his mug everywhere. But at least the TOI is quite open about the fact that they regard journalism as no different from selling soap. It's the sanctimoniousness of The Hindu that grates.