On page four of their Tuesday edition, Österreich published a picture showing Chancellor Werner Faymann meeting with Vice Chancellor Michael Spindelegger, with the headline "Budget Summit for breakfast".
Except the meeting never happened. To illustrate a story about a breakfast meeting between the two government leaders, Österreich committed a simple fraud – it took a photograph of Werner Faymann meeting in Brussels with newly-appointed EU Commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker, and replaced the latter's head with Spindelegger's.
The photoshopped image triggered an apology from Österreich CEO Wolfgang Fellner, and the censure of the responsible editors. But the damage has been done – to the credibility of certain Austrian newspapers.
Journalist Michael Jungwirth posted the original and the fake on Twitter. Photo: Twitter
How much can the public rely on the images that are presented as news? And if images are being manipulated, what does that mean for the reliability of the news itself?
Naturally, all news is interpreted through the lens of its editors. The nature of modern news economics means that journalists must necessarily be selective, as there are never enough resources to fully investigate every story, or to represent each point of view.
But there are lines, and it's clear that Österreich crossed one in this case. It goes to the very heart of media freedom, and the trust of our readers.
The Local has a policy to never manipulate images without clear indications that this has been done. We reserve the right to crop for size, and reduce the quality to support efficient page loading, but otherwise we run all pictures without editorial changes.
Der Kurier called Österreich's blunder "a particularly nasty piece of photojournalism".
We at The Local agree.