Last week, as Juan Antonio Giner and Alberto Cairo tell it, some editors got so swept up in the story of Osama bin Laden's death--a tale dripping with drama and intrigue--that they forgot something critical: they're in the news business, not show business. In a statement running on Nieman Watchdog and endorsed today by 58 journalists from around the world, Giner--the president of a media consulting group--and Cairo--an infographics director at a Brazilian magazine--accuse some news outlets of running "non-factual graphics" (the photo above shows a New York Post spread).
In an email exchange with The Atlantic Wire, Cairo lamented that "at least in some newsrooms, infographics are not seen anymore as journalistic storytelling tools that should respect the same rules of accuracy as the other branches of the discipline." Giner warned that "visual journalism cannot become the first casualty of breaking news." What were the worse offenses? Here's what Cairo had to say:
Cairo told us that some graphics depicted a violent battle at bin Laden's Abbottabad compound "with little al-Qaeda operatives shooting Navy SEALs" (the White House initially said there was a "firefight throughout the operation," only to say later shots were only fired at the beginning of the raid). Did editors "really know that there were al-Qaeda agents shooting [U.S.] helicopters from the building's roof, for instance?" Cairo asked. "No." He pointed to this graphic from the British newspaper The Independent, which depicts guards using "rocket-propelled grenades and guns" from the roof: