Media manipulation, ethics, and journalism standards

By | September 13, 2012

Earlier on today a 22 year old from Cospicua was jailed for seven months for breaching bail and assualting his ex-girlfriend. Not really news if you ask me but let’s move past that. What interests me in this whole story is that whenever the story made the headlines kept on using the same photo (shown below).

The photo was lifted from his Facebook and since he posted it in a public domain it can, as far as I know (please correct me if I’m wrong), be shared in the public sphere, but how ethical is it? Problem is that Lydon Cutajar is shown holding up his dog by its legs with a smug look on his face, which left me feeling distraught.

The picture provoked feelings of anger, anger which multiplied when on Andrew Azzopardi’s blog I read Lydon Cutajar wrote “i kill him beacuse she dont livme sleap hehe” on his Facebook wall. I wanted to go find this little shit in jail and give him a whack or two. Thankfully looking through Facebook is easier then taking the car and driving to Corradino so I went snooping around. Admittedly, the guy looks like a right prick in most of his photos, but that is called being 22 years old. However, what I gathered is that this guy would never hurt his dog and the comment posted was a reply to some girl who asked what he had done with said dog.

Don’t get me wrong, I am not defending this guy (there are other ways to impress girls in this day and age), and he may well deserve those 7 months in jail, but I was disturbed by such media manitpulation. Would I have felt the same way if this picture was posted instead?

Or even this?

The answer is, probably not, and what if the court were influenced as I was by seeing that particular picture? I’m not saying the Court is naive or biased but isn’t that the point of wearing decent clothing, to project a certain image of youself (unless you’re one of those bullies from the Marsaxlokk camping site that is).

  • lunaris

    And yet you lifted photos from his fb, ( like you uploaded the same photo of the man lifting the dog with one hand (like and even worse you published his name.
    Side note you also mis-spelled “worng”.
    I took your advice of “please correct me if I’m worng”. Stop pointing your finger at the local newspapers; you are of equal shallowness.

    • melahart

      The difference between me and ToM is that I am expressing an opinion and should be reporting the news, which comes with the responsibility of being neutral. I have no qualms about ToM lifting Facebook pictures (they were shared as PUBLIC or else they wouldn’t be able to see them) as long as they don’t picture the particular person in any way. Also I used the pictures ToM used for the sake of correctness and to construct my argument, something which you might not be too familiar with since you just misinterpreted the whole point of this blog.

    • melahart

      oh and thanks for letting me know about the typo…

  • Alfred Bugeja

    You chose the wrong case to prove your point. This is not a case of trial by the media. The Court’s hands were tied by this fellow’s two earlier convictions for which he got probation or suspended sentences.

    • melahart

      I never said he was innocent, I just pointed to the fact that ToM didn’t do the right thing using that particular photo.

  • Andrew Azzopardi

    Well written

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  • Mike Vella

    Great piece.

    Side note: People who think it’s clever to correct an obvious typo are a bit silly…

  • FBAquilina

    I don’t agree with your line of thought. This young man thought it fit to put on his fb page that photo. The newspaper in question did nothing wrong in selecting the photo which (in the editorial opinion) fitted best the news. As much as you have a right to share your opinions and have a right to your bias so does the newspaper. Moreover, I don’t share your concern with young delinquents or with criminals of any age for the matter. My concerns lies with honest, hardworking citizens – including a great deal of youth – who have to pay through their nose for others’ mistakes. Don’t get me wrong – we all make mistakes but there are people who are not men and women enough to own them up and pay up. Instead they expect other people to pity and pay taxes for their foolishness.

    • melahart

      Newspapers should really report the news as is and not colour it in, like what happened thanks to this photo. The guy might be a prick and I never defended him, my whole point was that a picture tells more than a thousand words and one (especially the most popular local newspaper) should be very careful about what is used.

      • FBAquilina

        Again I disagree. In as much as you have a right to voice your concern about the portrayal of this young man, the newspaper had every right to portray him in the way it did. What’s the fuss all about? This guy put up a photo on a public fb page. His conviction is also in the public domain. Hence the newspaper linked the two. I see nothing wrong in this. On the contrary, I think it would have been completely skewed to put up a different photo of this guy (given the selection he himself provided) portrayed in an angelic pose. That, in my opinion, would have been dishonest and manipulated reporting.

      • melahart

        Even if the guy is dumb enough to put that kind of picture online for everyone to see that doesn’t mean that ToM can choose this photo to incite anger in people reading the story. I chose to write the blog because I felt that anger, and it unsettled me. I didn’t jump when ToM used the picture of the bullies in Marsaxlokk because that was legitimate.

        There are no rules yet about photo sharing but there should be. This also goes for stories such as the baby that drowned in Cospicua and the Zammit-Gera murders. Facebook photos are being abused by the media (and by me on this blog admittedly). Maybe it’s time someone addressed this concern?

  • Franklin

    I believe that a newspaper has a responsibility (ethics, call it what you want) both towards the public and the person involved in the article. The fact is that posting that picture condemned this young man not only for his crime but for everything else that has nothing to do with it. Lets face it, was there an actual need to post his picture? Especially that picture since there were more decent pictures of this guy on his facebook. Maybe it increased the number of hits on both ToM and Andrew’s websites. Personally it is just another way of making news more appealing, without any regard to feelings and/or human respect. One may say that this guy did not have much respect for authority or society in general and that he got what he deserved. Maybe, but I am of the opinion that two wrongs don’t make a right and shaming him is definitely not the answer.

  • Mario Camilleri

    I totally agree with this article. I in the first place misjudged this fellow and accused him that his is hurting his pet. Al least this article proves that he loves his pet and would never hurt him.

  • FBAquilina

    It is true that media may be exploiting the use of readily accessible photos on fb. As of late I think they are overdoing it a tad too much. Nonetheless, I do not see any difference between this guy and the “bullies in Marsaxlokk”. In my opinion they are bullies – different kinds of bullies maybe – but still bullies. As such, I have no sympathy with them whatsoever. I have to admit that I really feel disconcerted when people seem to address concern for bullies, delinquents and sometimes the downright criminal. I will feel empathy for them and will embrace them wholeheartedly IF AND ONLY IF they own up their wrong doing and MAKE UP FOR IT to the best of their ability. Till then I feel fully justified in my contempt. Moreover, I see nothing wrong in people feeling angry at this guy or other criminals – these people owe us and not vice-versa. We have a right to live in a safe place and to feel safe in it. This is a SACROSANCT RIGHT in a just society. Of course in an unjust society like ours more pity is spared for the trangressor than the victims of trangression. A comparative analysis of our penal system will reveal that ours is by far one of the most lenient in the whole of the E.U. And it is all thanks to our culture where everyone is a miskin and miskina except the victim. It is about time that people feel contempt towards this unjust and wicked system which benefits the undeserving at the expense of the honest Janes and Joes.

  • Tanja Cilia

    If we put photos and comments on social sites we can expect them to be used by others. I do it myself, but I am very, very careful about it: and . The lesson to be learned is one we have been taught as “if you want to keep a secret, keep it to yourself”…

    • melahart

      There is no doubt about that, my question was, if it is ethical for a newspaper of such caliber as The Times to use such photos to sensationalise a story.

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  • Louise

    Effective. I agree.