Global Media Fail: The Case of the Stolen Face

Note: At the Digital Corridor, we stress accuracy in reporting in the age of new media. That’s why we wanted to share an interview we recently heard on NPR’s “On the Media” which aired on December 2nd, 2012. Here’s a quick summary:

Neda Soltani, left, and Neda Soltan, right
Neda Soltani right. Neda Agha-Soltan left.

In one of the most vivid examples of news organizations tripping over themselves for breaking news, broadcasters and newspapers worldwide once again fell pray to careless use of social media. Following the widely denounced Iranian presidential elections in the summer of 2009, 26 year-old protester Neda Agha-Soltan was shot and killed in a demonstration. Her death was caught on camera by cell phone and thanks to social media, it is widely considered the most viewed murder in “human history.”

But also thanks to social media, it wasn’t Neda Agha-Soltana’s face that was broadcast worldwide. It was the face of literature scholar, Neda Soltani, who had her photo mistakenly lifted from Facebook in the hours after the death of Ms. Agha-Soltan.

“Two different people contacted two different producers from CNN … about the mistake. The reaction we received was that CNN kept broadcasting my photo,” said Neda Soltani, who was teaching English Literature at a university in Iran. In less than two weeks, she went into exile. In the age of Facebook, misinformation can be shared with a global audience in minutes. Corrections travel much more slowly.

It Listen to Ms. Soltani’s account of what happened in the 12 days between the murder and her exile abroad.

Moreover, On the Media’s Brook Gladstone conducted an exceptional interview, allowing for a natural give and take that resulted in a powerful 11-minute story.


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