Accuracy in Media

Vice claims in a new piece that using stock photography is the same thing as using Russian propaganda.

This is, of course, ludicrous – but this is election season, and some people will turn anything to support their own politics – as seen in a piece headlined, “Why Does Mastriano Keep Using Russian Propaganda Footage in His Campaign Ads?”

The actual story. A photographer in Belarus – which is not part of Russia, note – uploaded a series of pictures to a free stock picture library. One of these was used by the Russian Embassy in Spain as the image to go with some tweets about how lovely Russia was. Another in the series was used by the Mastriano campaign. Not one of the Russian Embassy tweets, of course not – one of the images from that series in the free-to-use stock photo library.

Vice describes this as the Mastriano campaign using Russian propaganda as in that headline. And:

“This is not the first time that Mastriano’s campaign, which is in disarray despite support from former President Donald Trump, has used footage linked to Russia for its ads.”

Linked to Russia? Good grief, that’s stretching matters much too far. This is the sort of behavior we’d expect from Mastriano’s opponent in the race to be Pennsylvania’s governor. If that campaign did that, then good luck to them too — no one expects politics to be clean at this stage of the game.

But for a media outlet to be running, as a story and present as actual journalism, what we’d all describe as partisan political twisting? That’s gross political bias. This is actually at the stage where we might expect the article to be be declared as a contribution in kind to the campaign of the candidate running against Mastriano.

Vice ranks No. 79 in the usual listing of online news and media outlets for the US. It’s larger than that though, for the magazine also has a distribution of some 900,000 copies and the TV channel reaches 60 million American households by cable.

There is a role, an important one, for the media in informing us all about politics. This is not an example of that. This is a horrendous example of that media position being used to be highly partisan and misleading. It really isn’t true that using stock photography is the use of Russian propaganda footage.

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