Letter: Beware of ‘Face Swap’

From BILL READER, Subject: A “fun little app” with serious ethical implications

Microsoft’s “Face Swap” app takes photo manipulation to a whole new level, and poses serious implications for citizen-journalism efforts that already have suffered from amateur manipulations (remember this gem from November?).

I expect it will be a matter of days — not weeks, nor months — until a U.S. newspaper publishes a submitted wedding or anniversary photo that has been “Face Swapped.”

Citizen journalism (reader-submitted content) has always been an important but troublesome part of the business. It has moral value, however, only when it is treated like any other content stream — meaning the information is vetted and managed by trained editors, ideally editors who are given the time and resources to stay at least one step ahead of modern-day pranksters, liars, rumor-mongers, and flim-flam artists.

Reader is an associate professor at the E.W. Scripps School of Journalism



  1. Jim, I wanted to give you my reaction to the story you broke: Factual, timely, strong. Now please consider as a follow-up the human toll on journalists with families whose lives have been destroyed so Michael Redding’s group could get the capital need to acquire the News-Journal from the scrap heap for $19 million. I’ve heard the 16 regional NY Times papers were going for a collective $149M. Do the math: 1700-plus employees will be sheered like a dull razor on sheep, very painful and without mercy. After Redding acquired the N-J he had husband-wife teams left with one fired and the other continuing on to feed the kids knowing they were on borrowed time. I left the N-J on the front end, with more journalism industry awards than whole scores of reporters over a decade. My former wife was a bureau chief. When the bureaus closed, she was kept around for a couple of months and then sent packing. We lost everything — our home, our savings, massive debts resulting from borrowed 401Ks to fix up our home that we coouldn’t repay within 30 days. Our family was literally ripped in half. My son, now 18, suffered the most seeing his parents’ love of what they enjoyed in their careers and for each other destroyed. Nearly four years after the bureau closings and nearly 500 people sacrificed for a court-ordered sale, my former wife has since landed a job at a small daily as an ME on the other side of Florida and I’ve built Florida’s first fully-online 24/7 newspaper, NSBNews.net. Even as I beat several reporters ion breaking news in New Smyrna Beach, 15 miles from the N-J building, Michael Redding has a stranglehold on the CRAs and the former 100,000 circulation paper is halved in circulation, quality and staff. There are several of us who have been to dark places you would never want to go because of despair. How do you go from $45,000 to selling T-shirts for Bike Week at $7 an hour? I’m going to write my own blog later today, which Google News directories will slot into those newspaper cities affected by this if I can match up all the key words. You’d be surprised what you can learn when you have to scramble for a loaf of bread and a jar of peanut butter for your kid. I’m remarried and my son lives with us. Thank you for bringing this whole thing to light. Henry Frederick, 386-689-2830…

  2. Ronnie said:

    I really despise the term “citizen journalist.” It is, it always will be, reader-submitted content. Calling someone a journalist merely because they can use a computer and string words together is as disparaging to those of us who actually work in the journalism field as calling me a master carpenter because I know how to use a hammer.