The Ghost of Snapped Shot

Or, welcome to my low-maintenance heck.

More Fauxtography from the Toledo Blade? [Update: Nope!]

The Toledo Blade has responded. I won't quote verbatim, but if I may summarize their findings:

  1. I'm a reckless boob. [Ed:—No argument there!]
  2. The Director of Photography was involved in selecting photos on the day of the shoot, and didn't see anything unusual at the time.
  3. They have internally done a frame-by-frame analysis, and the photo in question is in line with the rest of the shots from on-scene.
  4. No alterations were visible in any of the shots.
  5. Mr. Wadsworth used: Canon 5D 16-35mm zoom f/2.8 lens.
  6. Image originally recorded in RAW format, resulting in 30mb file per-frame.
  7. Oddities in photo related to high field-of-view. [Ed.:—combined with absolutely awful image resizing software. Might want to upgrade that, Luann!]
  8. We were caught in the past, so we'll admit it if we get caught again. [Ed.:—Not sure about the logic on that one]
  9. And, last but not least:
    We're gonna sue you! [Ed.:—Sigh. Never heard that one before...]

I'm satisfied by their technical answer, and as I had said from the beginning, this was nothing that was a "sure" thing. As such, I do offer my deepest apologies to Jeremy Wadsworth for this, and trust that his reputation will not be affected in the least by someone as insignificant as myself. (Besides which, judging by his bio photo, he'd beat me up right quick on any given day!)

My hat's off to the Blade's editorial staff for their quick (if not intellectually violent) response. And, should their Counsel come calling, please notice that my current net worth can be summarized thusly (see illustration).

Update: From the "You Ever See A Story Come Apart Like That?" department:—Rhonda Shearer of the Art Science Research Laboratory has been in touch with the Steele family regarding this photo. The verdict?

Yeah, you guessed it:—It is completely genuine, and it depicts exactly what they saw when they were in hospital.

It doesn't make me feel any better, but my thanks are due to Ms. Shearer for getting that cleared up with a bit of that old-fashioned "investigative" journalism.

(Maybe I'll have to try that out one of these days.)

Original, Wildly Inaccurate Story!

(Now in Technicolor!®)

The Toledo Blade is a regional newspaper based out of Ohio that's marginally famous for an incident last year in which a staff photographer was caught photoshopping news images for dramatic effect. After being caught, the Pulitzer-winning photographer reluctantly resigned from the newspaper.

Keep that background in mind when you take a look at this picture, sent in by Brett S. (Larger view here; Please be respectful of the Blade's copyright.) The photo is apparently being used to hype your average healthcare story for the paper (screenshot here, in case the story gets pulled), and Brett is of the opinion that it's a total fake.

I'm not all the way convinced, but let's begin by looking at a detail of the problem areas:


For starters, the image looks something like a composition of at least two other photographs—One involving the patient, his relative, and (possibly) the machine; and the other component providing the hospital background. The suspicious areas of the photograph that lead me to think this are the patient's face (which looks "off" in that lighting), and the pillow on the windowsill (which appears to be poorly blended into the monitor in front of it). Additionally, the hair on the patient's relative is unexplainably blurry in a couple of spots, and appears to have been accidentally flattened.

On the other hand, most of these problems can be explained away as being the product of either poor lighting, or by sub-par post-processing between the digital original and the version that ran to "print" on the web. So I wouldn't go so far as to say that the above evidence is "conclusive" by any means.

So, for me, it can go either way. I'll put in an inquiry with the Editorial desk over at the Blade, and see if they have any official opinion either way. With luck, they'll be willing to reveal the high-resolution original of this photograph, and all of these issues can be easily explained.

Because, you know, it's not like the Toledo Blade is going to want another Photoshop controversy or anything. Right?

Update: The caption and attribution on the photograph, found on this page, read:

Randy Steele undergoes dialysis while his son, Jonathon, sits with him. (THE BLADE/JEREMY WADSWORTH)

From the Bio page, "Jeremy Wadsworth, 32, has been a Blade photographer for nine years. A graduate of Ohio University's School of Visual Communications, he has won various awards in the Ohio News Photographers Association annual contest."

Again, I can't stress enough that there is no conclusive evidence of manipulation here. There's only a bit of suspicion. If anyone from the paper has more background on the topic—Jeremy, I definitely want to hear your take on this!—please don't hesitate to drop me a note.

 Tags: fauxtography jeremy wadsworth blade #Misinformation


#1 captainfish 26-Aug-2008
Nah, looks normal to me. The flatness of the photo is messing with the depth perception.
#2 captainfish 26-Aug-2008
feeling something like this?

hehehhee.. sorry. keep up the eye-ball. In my line of work, editors and critical thinkers top the credibility lists. Real scientists always seek a critical review of their findings.

The fact that global warmers and the media push and fight against people like you shows that people like you are highly, greatly, extremely needed and important to people like me.
#3 Rhonda R. Shearer 27-Aug-2008
From editor:

Just a clarification: I spoke to Ms. Steele to inquire if she had any complaints about the media coverage including the photos. She was adamant that they were treated well and the photos were not staged or altered in her view.

Sensitivity about this photo should be a factor when discussing or investigating this photo(s).

This is a dying man and a family in pain that has been apparently screwed over by the medical care system that many complain is run by insurance companies.

Ms. Steele said she was grateful for the media coverage as it may help others. I told her I can relate to this as I am widowed. My husband was grossly failed by the medical system too.

The only mistake she cited was the misspelling of her son's name. Otherwise she was very happy how she was treated.

Caption: "Randy Steele undergoes dialysis while his son, Jonathon (sic--Jonathan is correct spelling), sits with him."

Are the suspect areas in the photo due to the compression software? Maybe.

A scientist's answer: This conclusion would require testing and examination of the original photo.

However, in light of the sensitive situation, from my mind and judgment, this step is not worth the pain that it would clearly cause the family. I determined this opinion by speaking directly to Ms. Steele.

In our media ethics program, we often find that sources are not happy with the reportage. We have many cases where victims feel victimized a second time by MsM...

Bloggers also have to consider the subjects in photos in addition to the fakery.

In addition to examining the photoshop artifacts, before publication, bloggers should also call the newspaper or magazine give them an opportunity to respond before publication of allegations of wrong doing. Subjects in the photos should be contacted to collect facts. This is all part of the important process of determining truth.

Truth telling is not a fixed state but a commitment to set of methods and steps. However, we have to remember that the people making the photos or in the photos are made of real flesh and blood and have feelings--just like bloggers.

This "realness" of "the other" should be considered at every step in each investigation, whither done by bloggers or MsM journalists.

Isn't the idea of all this to make the world a better place?
#4 Jackie Barton 28-Aug-2008
I am a long-time friend of the Steele family, who has helped them in any way I can along this difficult journey, from a distance. At times I have spent a week or more at their home, when Randy was hospitalized, being w/the children and taking them to visit him there.
I happened to be at the University of Toledo Medical Center on one of the occasions that the photographer, Jeremy Wadsworth, of the Toledo Blade, was taking many of these pictures. Randy Steele was a patient at UTME on 17 different occasions. The rooms, and everything in them, look very much the same. His son, Jonathan, would often stay by his Dad's side while his Mom, Pam, went in search of nutritious food to try to manage her Type II Diabetes. Randy was on dialysis 3 days each week, but when he was in the hospital on dialysis it was because his condition was critical. That is why someone from the family was always there by his side.
There was no need on the part of the editorial staff of the Toledo Blade to "doctor" any of the many photos that they came away with from UTME. The picture in question was, unfortunately, a very typical depiction of life as it has been of late for the Steele family.
#5 Brian C. Ledbetter 28-Aug-2008

Thank you very much for stopping by and sharing those details with us. I hope that I haven't caused the Steele family any trouble!

Respectfully yours,
#6 captainfish 28-Aug-2008
Thank you Jackie for sharing that bit of the story of your and the Steele family's life.

This site is dedicated to flushing out and exposing phony photos used to push a biased view. There was no disrespect meant or intended for the Steele family. In fact, an intent (if it can be stated as such) was to protect the family from a possible altered photo that was then used to push a story.

We are glad, and happy to report, that the image reviewed did in fact turn out to be legit and showed a grieving family during a most trying and painful time.

Also, if everyone will note that only questions were raised. We here even expressed doubts as to the claim of alteration.
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