Australian Broadcasting Corporation’s MediaWatch program (and accompanying website) detailed an error with Today Tonight’s report on a “commemorative plaque given to the family of a young digger who died at Gallipoli in 1915.”
In Today Tonight’s April 22 report, reporter Paul Makin reportedly commented that the plaque, for digger Howard Youds, “turned up” in the mid-1980s “in an Adelaide second hand shop.” Makin reported that Howard Youds is buried in Turkey’s Shell Green Cemetery.
But, Spirits of Gallipoli editor Kim Phillips reportedly contacted Media Watch to let them know Today Tonight is wrong. Spirits of Gallipoli is a project about men from the Australia Imperial Force “buried or commemorated at Gallipoli.” Gallipoli is a peninsula in Turkey, the site of a World War One military campaign that killed more than 8,000 Australian soldiers in a losing cause. (Read more here on the Australian War Memorial’s website about the Gallipoli campaign.
Her website “has photographs in its collection of all the Australian headstones at Gallipoli” so Phillips found a picture of Youds’ headstone and revealed that it isn’t what Today Tonight showed.
Phillips reportedly e-mailed Media Watch on April 24 to comment: “I find it almost a desecration that Channel 7 used the doctored photo that they did.”
iMediaEthics wrote to Phillips to ask how she spotted the fake photo. She explained that in 2009, she and 11 other volunteers “photographed all the headstones and memorials of the men of the AIF at Gallipoli.” She noticed the Today Tonight headstone didn’t bear resemblence to the headstones she photographed and assumed her photos must not be current. But, she asked someone to go to the cemetary to check it out and realized the Today Tonight photos were doctored. Phillips explained:
” After having processed every photo, I am fully aware of the structure of the headstones. The one used on Today Tonight had the plot and grave number etched in the bottom right hand corner of the plaque. This certainly was not the case when we photographed them all. My first thought was that all the photos we had taken were now out of date! A friend of mine was at Gallipoli at the time, so I asked him to go to Shell Green Cemetery and have a look. The additional details were not on the plaque, nor had the epitaph changed from 2009.”
Today Tonight producer, Graham Archer commented to Media Watch on May 10 that the station couldn’t “justify traveling to Gallipoli” to get an image of the headstone so instead the network decided to “create a look alike” based on information it claims the Australian War Memorial provided.
However, Media Watch claims that the War Memorial told Media Watch May 12 that it gave Today Tonight “detailed notes not the inscription on the Headstone. We were not asked for information in regards the Headstone nor if we had a photograph.”
MediaWatch added that Today Tonight would re-publish the correct photo. Spirits of Gallipoli’s Phillips noted that “the issue has been resolved” and that “the way that Media Watch handled the episode was just great.”
iMediaEthics has written to Today Tonight for more information and comment and will update with any response.
UPDATE: 06/12/2011 5:25 PM EST : Added that Media Watch reports through both a TV program and a website.