Thursday, June 4, 2009

The Recurrence of Crappy Media Reporting

Now, look....I've been ranting for quite some time about the crap that gets passed off as news reports in the media lately. Well, I've been ranting about that an how the media in general just blows. And I've been contemplating as to why some of the sucky media reports that are out there are, in fact, sucky. I've come to a couple of conclusions.First conclusion is that the folks that are in charge of this stuff are lazy. Good reporting requires some degree of investigation. It is not simply a matter of picking a story up off of the AP wire and assuming that it's accurate and just running with it as if it is. That's not a good practice. In fact, it's a horrible practice. And you can tell the stories where that has happened when you search Google News and all of the different media outlets that come up in your search results all have the exact same text of the account of the story. If you can find one, just ONE that is different, go with that report for what might be the most factual because the others haven't done anything other than cut and paste and given blind faith that the article is accurate. Those are the ones that, and I'm paraphrasing here, suck.

My second conclusion as to why the shoddy media reports keep appearing with such frequency is I think that there are some stories that people want to believe are true. And I get that. I do. I get wanting to have a story that is so bizarre or so heartwarming that everyone will be talking about it. The thing is, those stories get talked about so much when they do happen because they're not supposed to be happening very often! That's the allure! That's their hook!

So those are my conclusions as far as the media end of this debacle known as the downfall of news reporting goes. But I'm a bit confused about why the consumer end of this continues to allow it to keep happening. Are people just not paying attention? Do they not sense when something in a story is not quite right? I don't get it. Here's my example for today. The fine folks over there across the pond at
The Telegraph have a photo story titled "Bodybuilders compete in the Mr. Afghanistan competition in Kabul." OK. Well, that sounded intriguing enough to me to click on their link and look at their pictures that they presented. Here's the first one that was in their gallery. Behold!

What is that? Peanut butter? Nutella? That's an odd way to apply tanning lotion, but that's what the caption says, so I guess I'll go with it. But see, when something strikes me as odd at the very beginning, I become skeptical for the rest of the report. Then I came across this photo and I knew something was amiss. Behold! Amiss!
No! No! NO! That's A miss! Amiss! I meant AMISS!! Let's try this again. Behold! Amiss!

That's better. Now, what the hell is that? THAT, er, THOSE are the legs of some bodybuilders in Afghanistan. Allegedly. Seriously. Don't stare at the photo (the photo of the legs. You can stare all you want at the photo of Heather Locklear. Seriously, how can you not?), just look at briefly and see if something in your head goes "Wait! What the hell?!" It doesn't matter if you know what your brain is alerting you to, only that it knows that something is wrong. You should always pay attention to that signal. Now, when my BS detector went off when I saw this photo. I had to look at it more closely. First of all, the color is off between the two sets of legs. It's like they're not of the same exposure, what with the legs on the right being much, much brighter than those on the left. Now let's get a bit closer to the ones on the right, shall we! Behold! Zoom legs!

If you'll look at the arrows there, you can see that they're pointing to the lines where Part A was superimposed onto Part B. It's really rather difficult to miss. And in the red square on the left, you can see more clearly how the shiny area doesn't really seem to match that of the non-shiny area, thus indicating another poor Afghani cut and past job. Sad.

Let's look at some other photos, shall we? Here we have the newly anointed Mr. Afghanistan, a one Shukrullah Shakili, all poised and glistening for the cameras. Behold!

Wow. He's muscle-y. But there's something wrong at first glance. Again, go with that "Huh?" signal that your brain sends you when it sees some freakazoid photo like this one. Shall we zoom? I think we shall. Behold!

Over on the very large bicep, you'll notice an incredibly straight line that just seems to appear for no reason. Well, no natural reason. An unnatural reason would be a little bit of Photoshop or other form of photo manipulation through creative editing. If you'll look at the box on the left, you'll notice that is one deformed hand he's got there. Must make it really hard to do all of the weightlifting or whatever they claim to be doing in order ot have their bodies take on the ridiculously freakish nature that they do. It's like a mangled stump or some sort of a claw or something. And finally, if you'll notice the arrow pointing toward the grundle region, again, a noticeably straight and out of place line seems to divide the bikini from the thigh, almost as if one or the other were simply pasted right on there! Imagine! Then of course there are the two little guys standing in the background on the right, with heads that look like they were simply lowered down and placed on top of the neck and shoulders rather than having grown there naturally, like most heads are. Go figure.

And don't get me wrong. I am well open to the possibility that I'm just overreacting to things and there is nothing wrong with any of these photos at all and the whole thing it totally legit. That could be. But when I see a photo like the one below, I have to stifle all laughter. Behold!

On the right, that is clearly the Afghani version of Sonny Bono, don't you think? The shot is so out of proportion that I simply cannot believe that it hasn't been altered in some form. The guy on the far left looks like he has a 22 inch waist and a 42 inch head! The middle guy? Clearly a facial expression that's some sort of combination of constipated and exertion, both of which can be the same thing in some situations.

But this is the one that did it for me. This is the one where my laughter was not contained. This is the one where I did burst out laughing. This is the one that made me know that these photos were not totally on the up and up. Behold! The blind Afghani bodybuilder with the abnormally large noggin!

Are you kidding me?! Look at that head compared to that body! Am I really supposed to believe that they go together?! Come on! It's the guy in the picture that's supposed to be blind! Not ME! I can see! I can see that's not quite right! Let's look at it with a little bit more light shed on the subject. Let there be light!

That's better. Or worse. Kind of depends on how you're looking at this. The guys to the sides of this guy are way, way, WAY differently proportioned than the dude in the middle. And what's with his arm? It's like this little withered pipe cleaner thing. And it was obviously just pasted on that part of the photo. But that head is ENORMOUS compared not only to his body, but especially compared to the other heads in the picture!

I'm all for the Mr. Afghanistan Bodybuilding Competition. I mean, I suppose I am. Put it this way, I don't have anything against it. You want to report on the Mr. Middle East Muscle Man Contest, go right ahead! It MIGHT be fascinating! I have no idea. But I do have a pretty good idea that these photos do not accurately depict whatever it is that goes on over there during this competition, provided that it does exist (which I don't think I doubt that it does). So if you DO want to report on it, could you at least do it in a way that reports something accurately? Or at least with a higher level of Photoshop expertise so that I'm not spitting my coffee all over my monitor when getting my daily intake of world wide events? I spend more time cleaning up than I do actually reading.

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grannyann said...

I saw this morning that some members of congress are forming a caucus to investigate liberal media bias. finally!!! everyone notices that ABC, NBC, CBS, CNN, MSNBC are so soft on Obama and anyone he puts on his staff. The public is not getting any fair and unbiased news unless you watch FOX. I can't believe how afraid they are of the current administration.

Ruth@VS said...

I'm astonished you managed to read that far in the Telegraph! I haven't managed to read past the headlines and a few opinion pieces in years - it's a crappy rag these days, and often recites whatever a government spin doctor has told it to!

But you're right, those photos are weird!

Mare said...

Yes, the Obama-bias is everywhere these days. Aside from how troubling it is, I find it fascinating. I've been trying to research how it got to the point that it has and, more importantly, why. It's tough to nail down, I'll tell you that.

And Ruth, I used to LOVE The Telegraph! It was awesome. I found it superior to what most of the US press was calling 'reporting'. But lately, probably within the last 6 months or so, I've noticed a decline. And it makes me sad. Though I am glad to know I'm not the only one who noticed it.

And the photos only seem to back that notion up. I don't see how any self respecting publication could run pictures that, if not obviously faked/touched up, are questionably authentic at best.

~ M