These two examples show how easy it is to manipulate content in the age of digital technology. In the darkroom days, the extent of what was allowed in that era was the ability to darken or lighten areas of a photo. It never allowed for editors or photographers to add, move or remove elements in an image — or to alter it in a way that distorted reality.
A photographer’s image is equivalent to a reporter’s story. Photojournalists capture history as it unfolds. Images taken by them have an impact to the audience and affect and mold public opinion.
A journalist’s job is to ensure the veracity and authenticity of a photo. Otherwise, the integrity of the reporting suffers and you lose the trust of the audience.
Is the fact-checking process similar for photos posted on social media?
Newsrooms have teams dedicated to pursuing visual elements — photos or video — that are posted on social media.
When news breaks, these teams will search for posts surrounding a news event and evaluate whether specific accounts are verified. Producers will also reach out to confirm the authenticity and copyright ownership of those elements.
A common question that is asked is, “Did they shoot the photo or video or did they just re-post it?” Sometimes, geolocation is used to help verify that.
Time is key, as all teams in a newsroom are trying to confirm information to help the audience understand what is happening. Sometimes this effort takes two minutes or two hours.
Should AI-generated images ever be considered for a story?
CNN avoids using AI-generated images to illustrate news stories so we do not mislead the audience.
An exception is stories about AI technology or feature stories about an AI artist’s work. In such cases, if CNN uses an AI-generated image, we are careful to make it clear the image was created by AI.
As new image-generating tools such as Midjourney and DALL-E 2 are created and widely made available to all, it is important for newsrooms to learn about them and have an open discussion on potential uses — and more importantly, the dangers associated with their usage.