Top 10 Fake and Doctored Photo Stories 2011

Home » Fake Photos»

As the year ends, we at iMediaEthics wanted to reflect on our favorite and the most memorable fake photo cases we covered this year.  Click here if you want to see all our fake photo stories from throughout the years.

10. Washington Redskins owner Daniel Snyder filed a lawsuit against the Washington City Paper at the beginning of the year over the newspaper’s November 2010 doctored photo and satirical article about Snyder, as we wrote in February.

The doctored photo showed Snyder with “scribbled-on horns and facial hair” that Snyder initially called anti-Semitic.

Over the months, Snyder amended his suit and subpoenaed the Washington Post for information about the photo and article until he decided in September to drop the lawsuit.   The Washington City Paper said in September that it found the lawsuit “baseless.”

9.  Is Speculative, Photoshopped Princess Diana Report Distasteful? June 29, 2011 (link)

In June, Newsweek crossed the line with a distasteful and speculative article and Photoshopped images guessing what Princess Diana would be like “if she were here now,” we wrote in a commentary.

Instead of reflecting on the years since Princess Diana’s death or on her life, Newsweek chose to paint a speculative caricature of a dead woman, commenting that she would probably use Botox, get remarried a couple of times and more.

Read our commentary here.

8. UCSD Student Satire Publication May be Sued over Doctored Photo, Feb. 27, 2011 (link)

California student humor publication the Koala made the news this year, presenting an interesting case of free speech versus bad taste and harassment.

In February, a University of California San Diego student told San Diego TV news station 10News that she viewed the Koala’s doctored photo and article calling her crude names as sexual harassment.  She tried unsuccessfully to get the newspaper to take the content down. The university distanced itself from the material but said it couldn’t do anything because of the First Amendment.

And in November, 10-15 students at Cal State San Marcos, where the newspaper is also distributed, filed a  lawsuit against the newspaper alleging it “creates a hostile learning environment,” according to the North County Times. See our stories on the Koala here.

7. ESPN Criticized for Photoshopping Michael Vick as White Man, Aug. 28, 2011, (link)

In August we wrote about criticism of ESPN for Photoshopping a picture of NFL football player Michael Vick as a white man.

The Photoshopped image accompanied an article by Touré titled “What if Michael Vick were white?”  Touré slammed the photo and the headline, claiming that he “asked them not to call it What if Vick Were White but they did.”  The image of Vick as white was called “trash,” disgraceful,” and “with racial undertones,” according to TIME magazine.

Read our August story here.

6. WBRC Fox TV News Hoaxed by Viewer Submitted Fish Photo, June 25, 2011 (link)

In June, Alabama Fox-affiliate WBRC apologized and reported that it had been hoaxed by a viewer-submitted photo purporting to show the viewer holding a record-sized fish, we wrote.

The viewer, Joshua Hand, submitted the photo — which was really a picture of a man named James Caldemeyer off Caldemeyer’s website, — as part of a prank in honor of the at-the-time recently deceased MTV Jackass star, Ryan Dunn.

WBRC corrected its reports that the fish in the photo weighed 24 pounds, as it really weighed about 14 pounds.  It looked larger than its reality because of a photo trick called “forced perspective.”

Read our June story here.

5. Osama bin Laden Fake Corpse Photo Published by UK’s Mail, Sun, Mirror, Telegraph, May 3, 2011 (link)

The day after Osama bin Laden’s death was announced, at least four UK news outlets published fake photos purporting to be images of a dead bin Laden.  The Mail, the Sun, the Mirror and the Telegraph all published the fake image, which has been circulating for a couple of years.  All four news outlets took the photo off their website.

The fake image seemed to splice together a real photo of bin Laden (alive) with the photo of an unidentified bloody and bruised man.  See our story on this here.

4. Fake Ohio Tornado Photo was Facebook Joke, but Man Could Be Fined, Even Jailed? May 1, 2011 (link)

In early May, we reported on the case of a Facebook joke gone wrong that could have had legal implications.

An Ohio man, Justin Strunk, Photoshopped a tornado into a picture of a mall in Cincinnati.  He posted his fake photo on his private Facebook page in October 2010, but during severe weather in April 2011, a friend mistook the fake photo for a real event and circulated the phony photo.

After the photo went viral, a Cincinnati fire department started investigating the possible tornado, and Cincinnati’s Union Township complained that the township “wasted resources” as a result of the image.  However, the Cincinnati Enquirer noted that an Ohio law bars “initiating or circulating a report…of an alleged or impending … catastrophe, knowing that such report or warning is false.”

We wrote to Union Township’s fire department Dec. 18 asking for an update to see if any charges were ever pressed. We’ll update with any response.

3. News Outlets Publish Fake Photo of Shark Swimming in Puerto Rico Hurricane Irene Floodwaters, Aug. 30, 2011 (link)

In August, a Miami TV news station, a San Diego TV news station, the Miami Herald, blogs and others published a dramatic photo of a shark swimming through Hurricane Irene floodwaters in Puerto Rico.

But alas, the photo was a phony, as we wrote in this story..  The shark in question was originally pictured in a 2005 Africa Geographic photo and was Photoshopped into the Puerto Rico floodwaters image.

The Miami Herald and San Diego Channel 6 apparently took down their posts on the photo.  We haven’t found any updates, corrections or notes to readers on San Diego Channel 6  or the Miami Herald’s website about the photo being fake or the news outlets taking their stories about the photos down. We e-mailed both Dec. 18 asking if they ever did notify readers about the photo. We will update with any response.

Read our August story on the Photoshop here.


2.  TWO Hasidic Outlets Cut Hillary Clinton, Audrey Tomason From Photo?


The fake Osama bin Laden death photo wasn’t the only photo issue in the days after bin Laden’s death.  We wrote May 9 and May 10 about two Hasidic newspapers that Photoshopped U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Director for Counterterrorism Audrey Tomason from a White House-released photo of the “Situation Room” during the “mission against Osama bin Laden (original photo above).

The two New York-based Hasidic newspapers – Der Zeitung and Dee Voch —  photoshopped the two women out of the photo to meet their modesty guidelines prohibiting photos of women in their publications.   Both newspapers quickly issued apologizes.  (See Dee Voch’s apology here and Der Zeitung’s apology here.)


1.  Utah Newspaper Apologizes for Photoshopped Photo on Front Page, Dec. 17, 2011 (link)

Earlier this month, Andy Howell, the executive editor for Utah newspaper the Standard-Examiner, apologized to readers for a fake photo on the newspaper’s Nov. 27 front page.  Howell explained that the photo was a composite image submitted by a “trusted contributor” who apparently didn’t know submitting a composite photo without disclosure wasn’t OK.  The composite image spliced together two photos of real events that occured 10 minutes apart, according to Howell.

Read our story here.



Submit a tip / Report a problem

iMediaEthics’ Top 10 Fake and Doctored Photo Stories

Share this article:

Comments Terms and Conditions

  • We reserve the right to edit/delete comments which harass, libel, use coarse language and profanity.
  • We moderate comments especially when there is conflict or negativity among commenters.
  • Leave a Reply

    Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *