Sun-Times Media photographer fired for fabricating photo essays

Pioneer Press staff photographer Tamara Bell was fired late last week after the paper discovered she had made up “at least 43 photos and related captions” for a “Question of the Week” feature.

When confronted, Bell confessed to repeated fabrications.

Pioneer Press publishes community newspapers in the Chicago area and is owned by Sun-Times Media. The Chicago Sun-Times’ report on Bell’s firing included text from a statement by Pioneer Press publisher Chris Krug. The statement appeared in the papers, and is online here.

Recently, the Pioneer Press learned that a photographer on our staff has produced false photo essays on numerous occasions for the “Question of the Week,” a regularly occurring feature.

This is absolutely unacceptable.

The photographer admitted to producing false photo essays that appeared in the Deerfield Review, Highland Park News, Morton Grove Champion, Niles Herald-Spectator, Norridge-Harwood Heights News, [Oak Park] Oak Leaves, Park Ridge Herald-Advocate and Western Springs Doings.

The Pioneer Press is committed to accurately covering the stories of our local communities and readers, and we apologize for this breach of trust.

The photographer’s employment with our company has been terminated, and we have instituted new measures in an effort to prevent this from happening in the future.

I emailed Krug to learn more about the new measures that were instituted, and why his note appears to have been left off the website.

Related: Hearst fires reporter for serial fabrication in at least 25 stories |

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  • http://marketoversea.com/ Derek Yang

    Good point. I’d like to see more details as well!

  • http://twitter.com/bayreporta John C. Osborn

    Thanks for the update

  • http://twitter.com/bayreporta John C. Osborn

    Thanks for the update

  • http://www.CraigSilverman.ca CraigSilverman

    Good questions, Steve. Still awaiting more info from the publisher and hope to update soon.

  • http://twitter.com/fagstein Steve Faguy

    Wait, this person was doing weekly photo essays for eight newspapers? Or is it the same feature that’s syndicated in all those newspapers? (In which case, why are you syndicating what amounts to a man-on-the-street column?)

  • http://www.CraigSilverman.ca CraigSilverman

    I’ve emailed the publisher for more information, but as of now it appears she grabbed photos from elsewhere and then made up fake names and quotes/captions to go with them. This was instead of actually going out and finding the people herself. I’ll add additional info as I get it.

  • http://www.facebook.com/dilley Kevin Dilley

    My guess, since it was for a “Question of the Week”  section is that she ripped mugshots of the Web and made up answers to go with them, instead of walking around the community for an hour or two and getting genuine, honest content.  However, that’s just a guess, and like you two gentlemen, I am curious for more info on this one.  

  • http://www.facebook.com/dilley Kevin Dilley

    My guess, since it was for a “Question of the Week”  section is that she ripped mugshots of the Web and made up answers to go with them, instead of walking around the community for an hour or two and getting genuine, honest content.  However, that’s just a guess, and like you two gentlemen, I am curious for more info on this one.  

  • http://twitter.com/bayreporta John C. Osborn

    I agree. Did she manipulate photos, stage photos, or lie about what the photos were? 

  • Anonymous

    It would be nice to have more information on this (the source links don’t go into detail). How do you “make up” a photo? What is a “fabricated photo essay?” Is that when you photograph a dog and say it’s a cat? Is it when you use someone else’s photo and say it’s yours? Does it mean she used random photos and created a false story around them?

    There are many ways to go wrong with photojournalism, so it would be instructive to know more about the nature of this particular issue.