They say that the greatest form of flattery is imitation. But how far does imitation go? Does it stop when we finally become an exact replica of the people we pretend to be, or will a simple acknowledgement of our efforts be enough?
Last September, Eduardo Martin, a 32-year old leukemia survivor claimed himself as a war and conflict photographer, as well as a volunteer for the United Nations (UN). His photos were used by well-known companies such as Getty Images, Wall Street Journal, Zuma Press, and BBC News, among many others. As Martin’s client list grew longer over the years, the more he became credible and established as a photojournalist. This all changed when a reporter from BBC Brazil, Natasha Ribeiro, felt suspicious about his legitimacy as a professional. She then launched an investigation against Martin as none of the photographers have actually seen him in the field and he refuses to speak to Ribeiro on the phone upon invitation for interview. BBC Brazil later on confirmed that Martin was a fraud and he has been stealing images from actual photographers who risk their lives in these conflicting areas in order for them to document the most painful and stressing news stories.
Organizations and agencies immediately took down all the images that were taken by Martin after learning that his photographs were stolen and plagiarized. Martin was able to trick photographers and photo editors by making alterations to the photographs wherein image plagiarism softwares would not be able to identify that his images were in fact stolen.
The issue with Eduardo Martin is definitely controversial, but there is an underlying issue behind all of these and it concerns the news organizations and photo agencies that have fallen victim to Martin. This makes us question the verification process of notable media organizations. The media had the power to prevent the whole fiasco from happening at the very beginning, if they have just been more thorough with verifying the information that they receive and put out in the public.
This begs the question on whether news companies are so focused on putting out as much news as fast as possible that their credibility is compromised. Nowadays, since there are so many news organizations competing with each other, their main goal now is to always be the first to break news in order to keep the information as timely as possible. With this goal in mind, news organizations may be more careless and lenient when it comes to checking and verifying sources. Although there is nothing wrong with being the first to publish new information, it does not mean that the quality and reliability should be compromised as news organizations have set certain standards in order to gain their authority and reputation.
For a news organization, credibility should be one of their main priorities because it can greatly affect their image; as the perception of their viewers and readers may change quickly. The last thing a notable news organization would want is to be labeled as a distributor of fake news.