Photojournalists: News outlets trump viral citizen photos in credibility

(From left) Ahmad Yusni, Carlo Gabuco and Nana Safiana attend a panel discussion, together with moderator Zan Azlee (right), at the Cooler Lumpur Festival in Kuala Lumpur October 5, 2018. — Picture by Hari Anggara
(From left) Ahmad Yusni, Carlo Gabuco and Nana Safiana attend a panel discussion, together with moderator Zan Azlee (right), at the Cooler Lumpur Festival in Kuala Lumpur October 5, 2018. — Picture by Hari Anggara

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KUALA LUMPUR, Oct 5 — News agencies still have an edge in the face of stiff competition against viral photographs on social media taken by the public during disasters, as such organisations are more credible, media practitioners have said.

Speaking at the Cooler Lumpur Festival at the Publika shopping mall today, veteran photojournalist Ahmad Yusni admitted that news agencies will lose out when it comes to speed on disaster or war coverage, but the photographs published by these organisations will have more context and have gone through a stringent verification process.

“I think it is difficult to compete [against the public] on those things. But social media needs to be verified. We won’t have any problems [competing] on political subjects on social media but when it comes to disaster coverage like tsunamis, the agency will lose.

“But normally, even though the images [taken by the public] are out, the story is not out yet. There is still time for the story to go through and you need trained photojournalists to produce proper documentation of the story,” said Ahmad.

Freelance journalist Zan Azlee, who moderated the forum titled “Visual Journalism: Pictures Paint a Thousand Words”, agreed with his panellist that verification is an important factor of news coverage and that photos taken by normal citizens can be questioned.

“We don’t know if photos taken by citizens are true or not. In that sense, news editors have a role to verify before publishing [the news or photographs] on their platform too.

“The public also have a responsibility to look at these photos and not believe any pictures [that have gone viral] immediately,” he said.

Manila-based independent photographer Carlo Gabuco said when he first saw images taken by the public of the tsunami hitting Palu city in the Indonesian island of Sulawesi, his first instinct was to verify which news agency had taken the photograph.

“The first images I saw from Twitter were images of the tsunami coming in. I couldn’t quite believe it and had to verify which news agency it came from.

“That’s the danger of today’s technology — everyone has a phone camera, everyone can take pictures and videos and I think it’s our job as photo journalists to verify if this is true or not,” said Gabuto.

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