Spain’s El Pais was forced to apologize to readers after publishing a photograph of a man it claimed was Venezuelan President, Hugo Chávez, on its front page; the picture turned out to be a fake. The mishap shows just how far the media has gone to get the ‘scoop’, disregarding the importance of verifying sources.
Fidel Cano Correa, journalist and director of the Colombian newspaper, El Espectador, believes a mistake of this magnitude makes it necessary to reflect on journalism and the value of information as well as the civil responsibility that each publication entails.
“This situation is a good lesson for all reporters. It alerts us to all the caution we must have towards information. In this case, there was a lack of many obvious controls. Sometimes we are light in our confrontation,” Cano said.
“The excess of information makes it harder to verify,” Cano said, adding that readers are also constantly scrutinizing the information they receive and “errors are found in seconds.”
El Pais, Cano said, should have been more suspicious than usual of the photograph, but they “skipped many logical filters”. However, he believes the paper will emerge stronger. “El País will have an important reflection. Their brand is strong enough to recover prestige and strengthen the reporting team.”