A reporting blunder from gossip website TMZ highlights just how important it is for news organizations to check, recheck and verify their sources — before they go live with a report.
On Monday, December 28th, TMZ released a “never-before published” black-and-white photograph that “appears to show John F. Kennedy on a boat filled with naked women.”
TMZ reports, “Had the photo surfaced when John F. Kennedy ran for President in 1960, it could have torpedoed his run, and changed world history.” Pretty compelling stuff… except for the fact that the photo was a hoax.
About 10 hours after its initial story ran, TMZ published a refuting report, Man in Photo is Not JFK. TMZ had allegedly received an email stating that the photo didn’t show JFK at all. Rather, it was from a Playboy shoot in 1967. JFK was assassinated in 1963, by the way.
When TMZ broke the story, it claimed “multiple experts” had examined the photo:
All say there is no evidence the picture was Photoshopped. The original print — which is creased — was scanned and examined for evidence of inconsistent lighting, photo composition and other forms of manipulation. The experts all concluded the photo appears authentic.
However, I have my doubts about the extent of TMZ’s due diligence. The Boston Globe reporters Mark Shanahan and Meredith Goldstein spoke with Allan Goodrich, Chief Archivist at the The John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum in Boston, about the photo: “Goodrich told us yesterday that the same photo was shown to him months ago, and that he was able to dismiss it pretty quickly.”
While TMZ had experts examine whether the photo was altered in Photoshop, it didn’t have anyone verify that it was actually JFK in the photo. Isn’t that pretty much the most important part?
SOURCE: “The JFK Photo That Could Have Changed History,” 12/28/09
SOURCE: “Man in Photo is Not JFK,” 12/28/09
SOURCE: “JFK photo a fake,” 12/29/09
SOURCE: “TMZ Falls For JFK Photo Hoax,” 12/28/09
Photo courtesy of TheAlieness GiselaGiardino²³, used under its Creative Commons license.
David Reich is co-founder and CEO of SixEstate, blending a background in traditional marketing and public relations with over 5 years of experience managing hundreds of online marketing campaigns for all kinds of organizations — from small businesses and nonprofits to public companies. David is responsible for keeping SixEstate and its clients at the forefront of the rapidly evolving search and content marketing landscape. Connect with David on Twitter, Google+ or via email.