News for Digital Journalists

March 29, 2011

Finding photo fakes; Getting started in podcasting

If you’ve ever worried about photo fakery on your news outlet, you may soon have a detection tool to help uncover it.

A digital forensics expert is working to develop commercial software that detects subtle changes to the standard jpeg format used to create digital images for the web. Hany Farid of Dartmouth University spoke about the advances in digital detection technology in a Q&A with CJR.org published March 23.

Farid said he’s already using his jpeg-analyzing technique in an automated batch mode for his consulting work with media outlets and law enforcement. But he’s also in the early stages of creating a company to make the software commercially viable by year’s end.

The fakes Farid are after are not the obviously bad ones, like grafting a head onto a different body - he said those are actually quite easy for the average person to detect. It’s the good fakes that are very difficult to detect, he added, in part because of viewer’s tendency to get certain things wrong about pictures, such as whether shadows, perspective, texture and lighting are correct. In fact, Farid explained that people often believe wrongly that good authentic images are fabrications.

For news agencies looking to catch any kind of alterations in photos - for instance, in those submitted by citizen journalists - Farid said the jpeg analysis will work well. But for images from professional photographers who are making widely acceptable changes like crops, contrast adjustments and the like, a more nuanced analysis is required to catch any true fakery.

If you want to find out more about this cutting-edge topic, check out an April 5 MIT symposium, Ethics and Forensics in the Age of Photoshop Photojournalism, with Farid and Santiago Lyon, director of photography for the Associated Press.

Podcasting Startup Guide:  If you’re a news organization looking for a more tried-and-true multimedia tool to put to work right now, podcasting is worth a closer look. A new podcasting guide offers a practical way to get started with this already highly popular medium.

The how-to guide, from podcaster Matthew Haughey, covers everything from appropriate podcast lengths and formats to all the equipment, software and hosting services you’ll need to get started. Software is Mac-focused, with extended looks at tools like Skype Call Recorder and Garage Band audio editor.

The News for Digital Journalists blog is made possible by a grant to USC Annenberg from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.

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