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Royal Palace No Longer Considered a 'Trusted Source' After Truth About Kate Middleton Photo Comes Out

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We’ve all edited a photo at some point.

Maybe we’ve tried cleaning up the background a little or changing the lighting.

Those of us with a little more skill — and perhaps vanity — may have tried erasing a few pesky wrinkles from our clothes or even from our brows.

A little virtual makeup never hurt anyone, right?

However, when the entity responsible for releasing an edited photograph is an official state institution like Kensington Palace, it’s a national embarrassment and a breach of public trust.

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Major news agencies like Agence France-Presse, Associated Press, Reuters and Getty Images say they have lost trust in Kensington Palace after the Palace released a heavily edited family photo of the Princess of Wales and her children, according to Page Six.

The controversial photo, shared on social media for UK Mother’s Day, featured obvious editing errors that quickly raised red flags across the media industry.

Upon closer inspection, the agencies collectively determined the image had been manipulated and issued a rare “kill notice” instructing outlets to remove it from circulation immediately.

Should Kensington Palace release the unedited photo of Kate Middleton?

On BBC Radio 4’s “Media Show,” Phil Chetwynd, AFP’s global news director, said that when an image like that arrives at the AFP, the most important question they ask is “Where does it come from.”

According to Chetwynd, Kensington Palace had been usually regarded as a “trusted source” since they were people that they worked with all the time.

“Occasionally, there are handout photos of key moments such as this, which we would be used to dealing … so there’s a level of trust between us and them that way,” he said.

A handout was explained as “an institution or an individual passing on a photo that hasn’t been taken by a photo journalist.”

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When asked if Kensington Palace was still considered a “trusted source” after the misleading photograph, Chetwynd responded, “No. Absolutely not. Like with anything, when you’re let down by a source, the bar is raised and we’ve got major issues internally as to how we validate that photo. We shouldn’t have done [it], it violated our guidelines, and therefore we sent out notes to all our team at the moment to be absolutely super more vigilant about the content coming across our desk, even from what we would call trusted sources.”

Fiona Shields, head of photography at the Guardian, pointed out that the photograph was more than just a Mother’s Day picture. “It was also a picture that was issued to illuminate the Princess of Wales’ good health. So it kind of then transported it into a different news category,” she said.

“One thing that’s really important is you cannot be distorting reality for the public. There’s a question of trust,” Chetwynd added.

“The big issue here is one of trust and the lack of trust, or the falling trust, of the general public in institutions generally and in the media. So it’s extremely important that a photo does represent broadly the reality that it’s in, and therefore it is not in a sense telling some kind of lie or some kind of false truth around an event that happens,” he said.

The Princess of Wales issued an apology a day later, admitting she “occasionally experiments with editing” photos as an amateur photographer. However, the Palace reportedly refused to provide the original, unedited version of the image to the agencies.

The photo controversy has only heightened scrutiny around Kate Middleton’s ongoing absence from public duties. Buckingham Palace has provided scant details, simply stating she underwent a “planned procedure” in January and is expected to resume her royal schedule next month.

But the growing speculation has turned into a wildfire after CBS’ The Late Show host Stephen Colbert suggested that Kate’s “absence may be related to her husband and the future king of England, William, having an affair,” according to Newsweek.

The Celebrity Instagram filter we all play around with can be fun, but official channels have a responsibility to maintain standards of truth and accuracy.

When they fail, as with this photograph, everything becomes suspect, and faith in established institutions goes down.

Kensington Palace, once an unquestioned source for news about the royal family, has now lost its place of trust with the British people.

Unfortunately, this will only lead to more gossip and less accurate reporting about the royal family.

The monarchy derives much of its legitimacy and power from the support and respect of the British people. If that trust wanes, it undermines the institution’s standing and authority.

There’s an old proverb that goes, “For want of a nail, the shoe was lost. For want of a shoe, the horse was lost. For want of a horse, the rider was lost. For want of a rider, the battle was lost.  For want of a battle, the kingdom was lost! And all for the want of a horseshoe nail.”

Just as a missing horseshoe nail ultimately led to the hypothetical kingdom being lost, the monarchy’s lack of transparent communication and a few edited pixels has opened the door to consequences that could prove dire for the future of the institution.

This article appeared originally on The Western Journal.

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