2 Fake Photos in Midwest Tornado Coverage

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Indianapolis Star reporter Eric Weddle used red pen above to point out that a photo published on WTHR's website was faked to include a UFO. (Credit: Eric Weddle's Instagram, screenshot)

At least two fake storm photos were published or broadcast by news outlets reporting on the tornadoes in the Midwest last weekend. One of the photos was doctored to include a UFO, and the other was faked to insert a lewd sign.

A reader posted a fake photo on NBC-affiliate WTHR’s website, Jim Romenesko reported.

The doctored photo showed a church with a tornado on one side and a UFO by its steeple.  The photo was posted on WTHR’s “iWitness” section, where readers can “upload your photos or videos.”

Indianapolis Star reporter Eric Weddle flagged the bogus photo and the UFO in a post on Instagram. On Twitter, he compared the Photoshopped photo with the original photo, which he said a “friend shot.”

Indianapolis Star reporter Eric Weddle created a side-by-side comparison of the original photo (left) and the doctored photo (right). Weddle used red pen to point out the UFO that was doctored into the image.


A link for the photo on WTHR goes to a dead page.

Media Bistro’s TV Spy heard from WTHR’s news director Kathy Hostetter, who said the photo was unpublished.  She said:

“The photo was published to the wthr.com photo gallery by someone outside our building.  At the height of the storm and in the aftermath of it, we received a lot of viewer photographs & video, and this one slipped through our verification protocols.  We have since removed the photo from our gallery, and we’re reviewing our internal processes to ensure this doesn’t happen again.”

The blog Legal Insurrection spotted another bogus photo that made it into the news.  CBS Chicago showed in its broadcast an image labeled “near Washington, IL” that it got from “Alan J.”

A screenshot from the WBBM broadcast of the doctored photo.

If you look closely at the photo you see that the photo has been doctored to include what Legal Insurrection called an “off-color and clearly fake…road sign.”  (Below, see a screenshot detail).

A screenshot detail shows that the doctored photo includes a profane sign.

The Daily Dot and Deadspin reported that the original, un-doctored version of the photo was captured earlier this year in Oklahoma.

See the original photo on the New York Daily News’ website. The photo is credited to Reuters. iMediaEthics has written to Reuters for comment on its photo being Photoshopped and broadcast and will update with any response.

Check out all of iMediaEthics’ stories about weather.

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2 Fake Photos in Midwest Tornado Coverage

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