San Diego Stations Fooled by Fake Shark Photo

It was a big story in SoCal, a great white shark was caught on camera swimming just off the coastline of San Diego.

A juicy story for May ratings. 

Both KGTV and KFMB ran the pictured that was posted on the Shark Research Committee's website. 

Just one little problem, the picture was fake. 

Ralph Collier of the Shark Research Center posted the photo after he received it.  

Two days later, he said the two stations, KGTV and KFMB, contacted him to ask about the photo for news stories. "I did not contact them," he said.

"I'm not out for publicity after 50 years. That's not what's important to me," he added. "What's important is reporting accurate information."

KGTV's news director Joel Davis confirmed with iMediaEthics that the station first saw the shark photo on the committee's website and then began looking into it for a story. He said that the station interviewed Collier as part of its verification and tried to find the original photographer for more information.

"We questioned [Collier] about the authenticity of the photo, and he felt very strongly that it was real.  We tried different search engines to find the person who actually took the photo to get his story, but he has a very common name and we were unable to contact him.  So, we ran the story with the context that it was posted by the Shark Research Committee website, and explained that they as experts believed it to be authentic."

Collier said that after the news reports aired, a friend told him the photo may have been doctored. He later received a copy of the original photo showing the dolphin.

"You can see where an individual had a photograph of the white shark swimming at the surface and cut from the dorsal fin to the back fin off and placed it on top of the dolphin," he explained.

"Had I known this was a fake, an altered picture, of course I would not have put it up," he said, adding that he alerted the two media outlets when he found out the photo was not real.

KGTV's Davis added that the original photographer contacted the station to let them know the photo was fake after seeing the news report.