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Reuters Reveals Sleaze Is Essential to Its Bottom Line

A picture is worth 1,000 words or so we’re told. Here are a few: despicable, appalling, predatory and unprofessional.

That barely hints at the disgusting behavior Reuters is displaying in its quest to use a crotch photo of a 17-year-old girl to make money.

We thought we had seen it all, so to speak. Perez Hilton, who has turned all things sleazy into a business model, was smacked down by society for posting a revealing photo of singer/actress Miley Cyrus. After Hilton’s lame defense of showing an up-skirt photo of the girl who he has previously called a “Disney Whore" and “Disney Slut,” Disney pulled ads for ABC’s “The View” from his site.

Perez has always been the troll the media love, but even he went too far here. His indefensible actions generated the attention his little, er, ego required and he got to move on and slime someone else.

Surprisingly, Hilton has been outdone by a larger, more experienced bunch of scumbags – the folks at Reuters, once thought of as a professional news agency. 

Cyrus, who is having her teen misadventures broadcast globally, got photographed in a compromising way during the Much Music Awards in Toronto on Sunday. The photo shows her dancing in a white body suit with ribbons. However, the photo caught her just as the body suit moved, revealing all too much of her crotch.

Like the previous Disney pop tarts – Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera – embarrassing moments go with the territory. Reuters enshrined this one in the marketing hall of fame as a way to destroy credibility. The company is now selling the photo.

That’s right, a news agency is selling dirty pictures of a 17-year-old girl. It’s doing a lot more. Its disreputable photo department sent the photo out to Reuters print clients for use – although what use they would make of such a picture one can only imagine.

Disbelief and outrage are barely a starting point for this one. Dictionary.com lists 50 synonyms for disgusting from “abominable” to “yucky” and not one does this justice.

For any news organization to do this, is outlandish. But Reuters has fallen on difficult times and it is no longer deserving of much respect. These actions raise true legal issues – such as whether pornographic or questionably pornographic images of underage girls are protected by the First  Amendment. Even if some lawyers say they are, I disagree.

In words so simple even Reuters might understand – no #%@&ing way.

Either way, they violate journalist practice and they violate Reuters voluminous guidelines to proper journalism. Here is an organization that vows everything it does is done “with the utmost integrity.” It lies.

Check out the integrity section of their Handbook of Journalism. Under the “dealing with people” section it says “When covering people in the news, Reuters journalists:

• "Avoid needless pain and offence
• Treat victims with sensitivity
• Eschew gossip about the private lives of public figures
• Avoid sensationalism and hype"

Running this photo runs afoul of every one of those standards. Reuters staff aren’t commenting. 

Perhaps they are contacting Hustler’s Larry Flynt for lawyer referrals.

This isn’t the first instance of insanity from the Reuters photo department. In the Mideast, Reuters photographers might as well say they represent Hamas or Hezbollah and not any viable news organization. In the past few years, their photographers have been involved in multiple instances of unethical behavior where they manipulate photos to make Israel look bad.

When the Israelis stopped the bogus aid flotilla to Gaza and so-called activists attacked the soldiers, Reuters photographers were there to spin things toward the pro-terror crowd. One photo showed an Israeli commando surrounded by attackers including one with a knife. The Reuters photo edited out the knife.

The fight at the flotilla caused an international crisis and Reuters tried to make Israel look guilty. That’s not the work of a news organization. It’s the effort of a propaganda arm.

In another case, the agency had to withdraw a photo of Israeli bombing of Lebanon to make the results look far worse. Ynetnews.com quoted Reuters' head of P.R. Moira Whittle admitting it: 

"Reuters has suspended a photographer until investigations are completed into changes made to a photograph showing smoke billowing from buildings following an air strike on Beirut.” 

But four years later the same lies are repeated.

There’s more. Want to find a photo of Obama looking messianic complete with halo? Start with Reuters. 

Want to find a news organization claiming there was no media bias in the 2008 election, again start with Reuters. That time they claimed the bias was “largely unseen in presidential race.” Obviously, they didn’t look at their own reporting. But who can blame them?

Still, that’s a far cry from running dirty pictures of a 17-year-old girl to make money. That’s usually reserved for sleazy old men you wouldn’t want near your children. -- In other words, the Reuters photo staff.

And they wonder why the news industry is losing credibility. Credibility, much like the innocence they help destroy, is difficult to regain.

Dan Gainor is The Boone Pickens Fellow and the Media Research Center’s Vice President for Business and Culture. He writes frequently for the Fox Forum. He can also be contacted on FaceBook and Twitter as dangainor.