Peter Bohan – Editor to Editor: A painful look at the dark side

08 Jun 2015


If you found yourself compelled to read through the U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee’s report on CIA torture of detainees last December, you were no doubt struck by the hundreds of blacked-out redactions made in the 525-page summary. The rest of the 6,600 page report remains classified. It contained plenty of evidence of torture by the CIA – enough to make you wonder just how bad the rest of the report could be.


On Tuesday, Reuters reporter David Rohde drew back the veil a bit. His special report put a human face on the CIA’s “enhanced interrogation techniques” — Majid Khan, a 35-year old Guantanamo Bay detainee turned government witness now awaiting sentencing for conspiracy, murder and spying charges. The story marks the first publicly released account from a top al Qaeda detainee of CIA’s interrogation techniques.

“Khan’s detailed allegations of torture could not be independently confirmed. CIA officials have said they believed Khan repeatedly lied to them during interrogations,” writes Rohde.

Still, the story — based on 27 pages of interview notes, compiled by Khan’s lawyers over seven years, that were cleared for release by the U.S. government last month — paints a picture of sexual abuse and other forms of torture beyond what was disclosed in the Senate panel’s summary. So we invite you to take a look.

Exclusive: Detainee alleges CIA sexual abuse, torture beyond Senate findings

Rohde’s own experience as a captive informs his reporting. He was kidnapped in Afghanistan by the Taliban in November 2008 and held 8 months before escaping.

Peter Bohan
Executive Director
Reuters America Service

See it to believe it: Yann Tessier on user-generated content

08 Jun 2015

Yann Tessier

Yann Tessier is Senior Editor of the Day at Reuters, responsible for the delivery of global video news coverage to broadcast and online clients. We hear from Yann on the importance of user-generated content in a smartphone world.

What is user-generated content?

User-generated content has been around as long as cameras. It is the people who are standing there before something unexpected happens – like the Hungarian student who was snapping away on the roof of Charles de Gaulle airport when Concorde flies into shot with its engine on fire. He gets a clip of it and he calls Reuters.

File photo shows flames coming out of the Air France Concorde seconds before it crashed in Gonesse near Paris Roissy airportREUTERS/Andras Kisgergely (25 July 2000)

How is the world of UGC changing?

YouTube says that there is 300 hours of video uploaded every minute. There are billions of smartphones around the world and the rate of smartphone usage seems to double every year. Internet connectivity is getting better, and everywhere you go there are hundreds of cameras pointing, recording, rolling across events as they happen. Increasingly, clients are turning to us to filter content and tell them what is important.

U.S. soldiers take pictures of U.S. President Obama using their smartphones after he delivered a speech at U.S. military base Yongsan Garrison in SeoulU.S. soldiers take pictures of U.S. President Barack Obama using their smartphones after he delivered a speech at U.S. military base Yongsan Garrison in Seoul, South Korea, April 26, 2014. REUTERS/Lee Jin-man

Imagine U.S. President John F. Kennedy being shot now. You would probably have 40-50 different versions of it rather than Abraham Zapruder’s one piece of home-film footage. The Kennedy footage took ages to emerge before it hit the eyeballs of ordinary people, but these days it would have been visible online within a matter of minutes.

Tell us about your role at Reuters?

I am responsible for the day’s coverage, making sure that the video material that we gather goes out properly on our agency video service. This goes to around 1,200 television channels and a large number of internet channels. It’s my job to ensure that we are covering the right stories, and that the material gets delivered to clients as fast as possible. The bulk of our coverage is covered  by our own video news crews, but user-generated content is gaining increasing importance on big breaking stories.

How do we verify this kind of content?

Verification is critical, and that is the bulk of the work of our social media producers, George Sargent and Eleanor Whalley. If we can’t verify it then we can put it out with that warning, but our clients expect Reuters to get it right. We are basically looking for the things that make us believe it is genuine: what was the weather like, can we look at the terrain and the landmarks and match it up to Google Maps, does it have any corroboration with Reuters sources?

We spend a long time on contentious pieces of video. If there is a plane crash we might go through the videos frame by frame to check the exact shape of the smoke against other footage. There are people out there running material from the Libyan war two years ago as yesterday’s fight in Aleppo. You have to be really careful.

How do you approach propaganda footage, where groups intend that news outlets run staged videos?

Islamic State are very proactive in making high-end productions, not only of people being killed but of general propaganda which goes everywhere online. They know how to use social media to their advantage, looking up popular hashtags of the day in different language groups and using them so their material goes into people’s feeds.

On the Jihadi John video, we had to take the decision on whether to run all of it, whether to run part of it, or run nothing at all. In the end we ran the statements but not the shot of the body.

I do strongly believe that, as an agency, it is our job to source the material and not to make the subscriber’s decision for them and so we generally put out more than any individual client might use. But there is a limit and we draw the line at extremely graphic material that few or no subscribers would use. Our users are beginning to engage with us about exactly how we flag graphic material.

Are we implicated in propaganda if we do show this footage?

I think that debate could have held true five or ten years ago, pre-YouTube. There was a time that content had to hit an agency for it to gain global leverage. All Bin Laden could think about was getting on Al Jazeera. But social media has changed that, because these groups can still reach their audiences.

The other element is that while this is propaganda, it is still a story. We have to pick what we feel are the newsworthy events. Often social media is ugly. Our social media team see a lot of distress in a short space of time – ironically, they may see uglier stuff than some in the field over the same period, but we do make sure that they take care of their minds.

Are there particular times when distributing user-generated content has made a great impact?

Sometimes there are places where it is toxic for our journalists to go, and user-generated content can give us the stories we might not always be able to get at. In the case of Syria, we have a crew in Damascus, we have crews on the border, and we have in the past gone into Syria, but the daily story of Syria is actually told by user-generated content – people and activists putting their stuff online.

There was also recently a scandal in the UK around the issue of migrants queuing up in Calais to physically bust into the ports. There was nothing professional to be had, but we went onto Twitter and a truck driver had posted material which we put out and which Sky then picked up. The kind of images we were working with had huge impact, questions were asked in the House of Commons and the British are now going to invest millions in Calais security.

Sometimes we wouldn’t have a hope of shooting the material, but we can make sure we distribute it to our clients.

Migrants from Africa, Afghanistan and Syria queue for an evening meal at the Jules Ferry day center in CalaisMigrants from Africa, Afghanistan and Syria queue for an evening meal at the Jules Ferry day center in Calais, France, April 29, 2015. African migrants, gather in this northern French port city after they travelled from the Mediterranean northwards in the hopes of crossing the English Channel and seeking asylum in Britain. REUTERS/Pascal Rossignol

What trends are you seeing in this space?


With the spread of smartphones and social media, viral videos – videos that make you smile because they are odd, funny or visually arousing – are gaining increasing weight in popular consciousness. In addition to covering the hard news of the day, we are devoting increasing effort to tracking down what is also making people smile on the day and what is being shared. For a proportion of our broadcast and online subscribers, the question ‘what’s going viral today?’ is becoming nearly as important as ‘what’s happening in the world today.’ Reuters is now seeking to answer that question too.


Find out more about Reuters Social Video, delivering breaking news coverage and captivating light-hearted stories,created by users of the world’s social media platforms.


Tales from the Trail: What does the future hold for small newspapers?

22 May 2015


Peter Bohan was a Reuters journalist for 30 years before becoming Executive Director of Reuters America Service, a product aimed at U.S. newspapers, web sites and broadcasters as an alternative to The Associated Press. Peter – Midwest Bureau Chief at the time – built the service starting in 2010 in tests with Tribune Company, which  became the anchor client for RAST in 2011. Peter spends more time than anyone working with U.S. newspapers to see how Reuters can address their needs.

We asked Peter to blog from time to time to share how it’s going.

Tales from the Trail: What does the future hold for small newspapers?

There has been a lot of anguished reporting this year on whether small daily newspapers have a future in the Digital Age. What’s it all boil down to?

The most interesting parts of the debate focus on two questions: what do local readers need? How do they want to receive it?

The Pew’s annual reports last month on the state of the media and in March on “local news ecology” threw some light on both questions.

As with most newspaper industry stats, the numbers are skewed by the dominance of the top 100 with 100,000 print circulation. What the struggle is like for the 1,200 or so other smaller daily papers remains in less clear.

Nevertheless, some survive-and-thrive trends for both big and small papers are coming into focus. One is a new push toward “usefulness” – trying to win back lost local readers looking for “life easing local services,” as Nieman Labs media analyst Ken Doctor calls them. (more…)

Reuters becomes the first news agency to offer up to four simultaneous live video feeds

22 May 2015

Reuters_1 - Copy

Reuters becomes the first news agency to offer up to four simultaneous live video feeds

Reuters is proud to announce the launch of Reuters Live Service PLUS – becoming the first news agency to offer up to four simultaneous live feeds to clients.

Reuters Live Service PLUS allows Reuters television clients who take up the service to choose from three additional live signals over the single live signal offered by Reuters Live Service, giving them and their audience increased access to the people, issues and events that are changing our world – often at the same time.

Delivered over the internet, Reuters Live Service PLUS is the perfect complement to Reuters flagship satellite live service, featuring additional showbiz, sports, regional events and breaking news coverage.

Reuters Live Service PLUS features:

  • More live coverage: Clients can choose from three additional live feeds of the events that matter most to audiences. Reuters is the first news agency to offer more than one live feed to clients at the same time.
  • Never miss a story: Events list, coverage diaries and advisories to aid programme
  • Smooth playout: Delivered over the internet using HTTP Live Streaming and adaptive bit rate technology, ensuring smooth playout.
  • Formats to suit you: Feeds delivered in High Definition through your Reuters server.
  • Help at hand: Direct access to our journalists and a 24/7 global helpline.


Creating a multimedia travel experience for All Nippon Airways (ANA)

21 May 2015

Our Reuters Content Solutions, editors, developed a special, multimedia travel experience for All Nippon Airways (ANA) and visitors to the website. Wanting to offer our readers authentic business travel recommendations, we created a seamless branded content experience. Here’s how it worked…

First, the Reuters Editorial team re-ignited the popular 48 Hours In series, which features interviews with well-known and highly regarded business leaders sharing their favorite destinations to visit – and what particular meaning that city holds for their company. Interviews that have aired thus far include; Jonathan Tisch, co-chairman of the Loews Corporation discussing his favorite parts of Chicago; fashion house Marchesa co-founders, Georgina Chapman & Keren Craig sharing their affinity for the vibrant streets of Mumbai; and Group Founder and CEO Janice Bryant Howroyd on why she loves doing business in and taking time off in the British capital.

Then, ANA commissioned the Reuters Content Solutions team to create a highly stylized custom content package about ten different Asian business hubs entitled, Carry On. This package includes: short videos taking users on a brief journey to each bustling locale, articles and photo galleries profiling each city and at-a-glance fact boxes listing recommendations on the best places to stay, dine and play. (more…)

Reuters Award Winning Journalism in 2015

20 May 2015

It’s been a busy time for recognition at Reuters.

Many awards have followed since we were recently selected as finalists at the Pulitzer Prizes and awarded the Sidney Hillman Prize for The Echo Chamber.

On May 9, Reuters journalists Amy Lefevre and Andrew R.C. Marshall were awarded the grand prize of the Human Rights Press Awards for their series on human trafficking in Thailand. Organized by The Foreign Correspondents’ Club Hong Kong, The Hong Kong Journalists Association and Amnesty International Hong Kong, the Human Rights Press Awards recognize the best rights-related reporting within Asia.

A team from Reuters received the Overseas Press Club (OPC) Malcolm Forbes Award for best international business news reporting by a newspaper or wire service for their “Comrade Capitalism” series. Investigative journalist David Rohde was honored with the organization’s President’s Award, for, as OPC President Marcus Mabry said, “a career fighting to expose ghastly injustice to the light, from Srebrenica to Afghanistan. For extraordinary courage and determination in the face of captivity. For an historic effort to craft a code of conduct for safely reporting global news. And for his compassion, humility and humanity.”

In Comrade Capitalism, a team led by Stephen Grey dissected dubious Kremlin deals and relationships, exposing, for the first time, how the elite prosper at the taxpayers’ expense in Putin’s Russia.

Russian President Vladimir Putin speaks during a ceremony with newly appointed high-ranking military officers in Moscow's KremlinREUTERS/Alexei Druzhinin

This wasn’t the only recognition for the series this year. Among the recognitions the series has also garnered: Comrade Capitalism was Reuters own “Story of the Year” in the 2014 Journalists of the Year awards and won the International Investigative award from the Society of American Business Editors and Writers (SABEW) earlier this week.

The Echo Chamber and Farmaceuticals have been named in the New York Press Club Awards contest, The Echo Chamber winning in the Political Coverage, Newspaper/Newswire category and the Farmaceuticals series won the top prize in the Feature Reporting: Science, Medicine, Technology category. The awards will be presented at a ceremony in June in New York. (more…)

Reuters Award Winning Photography in 2015

20 May 2015

Reuters photojournalists consistently produce captivating and inspiring images from around the world and a number of photographs have already been recognized by the industry in 2015, winning awards that cover a wide range of genres from current affairs to sport to portraiture.

Photographer Rodi Said won the Award of Excellence for General News at the Pictures of the Year International Competition (PoYi) for a poignant photograph of a displaced family from the Iraqi ethnic and religious minority Yazidi fleeing Islamic State forces in Ninawa, Iraq (August 11, 2014).

File photo of displaced people from the minority Yazidi sect, fleeing violence from forces loyal to the Islamic State in Sinjar town, walking towards the Syrian border

For his striking portrait of a woman preparing for her wedding in the district of Djicoroni, Bamako (April 24, 2014) Juan Medina was awarded 3rd Place in the Portrait and Personality category at the Atlanta Photojournalism Awards.

A woman shares a light moment with her family and friends before her wedding in the district of Djicoroni

Siegfried Modola, who is based in Africa, was awarded a Special Prize by Jury in the Days Japan awards and a Gold Medal in the Science, Tech & Culture Stories category at the China International Photo Prize for his powerful series of images on the custom of female circumcision, also known as female genital mutilation, in the Pokot tribe in Marigat, Kenya (October 16, 2014).

A Pokot girl cries after being circumcised in a village about 80 kilometres from the town of Marigat in Baringo County

In the sporting genre, British photographer Phil Noble won numerous awards including Photographer of the Season from the Barclays Premier League for his photograph of Everton goalkeeper Tim Howard covering his eyes from the sun during the English Premier League soccer match against Tottenham Hotspur at Goodison Park in Liverpool (November 3, 2013).

Everton goalkeeper Howard shields his eyes from the sun during their English Premier League soccer match against Tottenham Hotspur at Goodison Park in Liverpool

Canadian photographer Mark Blinch, equally won a bushel of awards at the News Photographers Association of Canada (NPAC) annual convention. He took first place in the sports action category for his astonishing image of Germany’s goalie Jennifer Harss as he regretfully watches the puck enter the net on a goal by Sweden’s Johanna Olofsson during the third period of their women’s preliminary round hockey game at the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympic Games (February 11, 2014).

Germany's goalie Harss watches the puck enter the net on a goal by Sweden's Olofsson during the third period of their women's preliminary round hockey game at the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympic Games

Click here to view the entire collection of winning images from 2015.

Visit the Reuters Pictures website to license over 7 million images. Now with open search and credit card/Paypal billing in the US, other regions to follow.

Isle landers – Darrin Zammit Lupi documents the lives of asylum seekers over 10 years

12 May 2015

Young would-be immigrant sits on deck of Armed Forces of Malta patrol boat at Haywharf in Valletta's Marsamxett Harbour

Isle Landers is a photographic project ten years in the making by award-winning photojournalist Darrin Zammit Lupi of Times of Malta and Reuters, documenting the lives of asylum seekers and migrants from North Africa and Syria, throughout and after their journey across the Mediterranean Sea. Since 2002, more than 19,000 individuals have reached Malta by crossing the Mediterranean on rickety vessels. Many others were much less fortunate.

During the last decade, thousands of men, women and children have lost their lives as their rickety vessels succumbed to the sea. To date, in 2014 alone, more than 3,000 people have perished in the Mediterranean, victims of a cynical smuggling and trafficking industry that continues to exploit desperate people on the move. In Darrin’s words: “Untold hundreds have died attempting to make the crossing – the central Mediterranean has become their graveyard.”

Wider Image: Isle Landers

Around 5,000 immigrants remain on the island, in detention centers, open centers and in the community. Some face up to 18 months in detention, locked behind bars without standing trial, fighting numbing boredom. The refugees claim that their intention was never to arrive in Malta, but rather to go to Italy where they could move on within the European mainland. As a result, they show little interest in integrating in the community.

The project captures the journey of the refugees who arrive on the island, beginning with their rescues far out at sea, their arrival on Malta, their life in the detention camps, through to their departure from Malta to be permanently resettled in the U.S. and continental Europe.

Armed Forces of Malta marines toss bottles of water to a group of illegal immigrants in southwest Malta

Speaking on the importance of sharing with the world these immigrants’ suffering and strength, Darrin, who is originally from Malta, said:

“When I decided I wanted to become a professional photojournalist, I dreamt of travelling abroad to follow big stories. I still went abroad, but I soon realized that the biggest story of all was in my own backyard. It is a story the world should know about.”

A hardback, full-color book has been produced of the work, with a foreword by Antonio Guterres, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees.  A preview video of the book can be viewed here.

Learn more about the Islelanders project, including multimedia content on the Wider Image (Link below) or on his  website.

What makes a truly great image?

06 May 2015
File photo of a man rinsing soot from his face at the scene of a gas pipeline explosion near Nigeria's commercial capital Lagos

REUTERS/Akintunde Akinleye

This year marks the 30th anniversary of the Reuters pictures service and our recent widely published packages of the most iconic pictures from the past three decades can be viewed here part onepart two and part three.  But as important as it is to look back proudly at our work, it’s more important to look forward.

“Photography is dead,” a professor once told a photography class I attended decades ago. He was an artist by background and he truly believed that everything that could be photographed had been already. His words sparked a debate at the time but, thankfully, did not prove prophetic.

What he failed to see was that computers and digital photography, which then existed only on a small scale, would radically change our industry. Children can now take photographs before they can read or write. Technology has made photography accessible to all, not just skilled professionals with expensive equipment. Images have become the only real international language.

Now a new phrase has emerged – “journalism is dying.” However, as with my professor, these doomsayers too are wrong: the decline of paper-and-ink media does not mean the death of journalism. If anything, the demand for information has risen.

While the Internet has grown crowded with bloggers and citizen reporters, the ability to spew sentences does not make someone a journalist any more than a mobile phone with a Leica lens and Instagram filters makes them a photojournalist. There will always be a role for quality journalists and picture providers trained in the art of balanced and accurate storytelling.

For this reason, I contend that journalism – including photojournalism – is alive and well and more widespread than ever. If anything, the crisper and more sophisticated displays on smartphones, tablets and computers have increased the clamour for quality images.

At Reuters Pictures, we are dedicated to covering global breaking news, quickly, accurately and to the highest possible standard. It is what we have always done, and what we continue to do. But the industry is indeed changing rapidly, which means we need to go further. When news breaks, our photographers not only compete with other news outlets, but also with images on social media. These may not be as sharp or as reliable, but they can certainly be as fast.

Meanwhile, news organisations, which make up the bulk of our clientele, are facing their own problems. Sharp declines in advertising and subscription revenue have forced cost cuts, and yet they still face pressure to provide ever-more content for a hungry online audience.

With less money, fewer journalists and more rivals, our clients are searching for images that make them stand out – which is where we come in. So what, in an era awash with selfies and seascapes, makes a truly great image? (more…)

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