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  • 8/2/2019 Research Paper Website Version


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    Digital Photo Manipulation and the Media

    As journalists, we believe the guiding principle of our profession is accuracy; therefore,

    we believe it is wrong to alter the content of a photograph in any way that deceives the public .

    (NPPA 2011) Digital photo manipulation is a growing issue in the media world ; it threatens the

    credibility of all journalists and brings more issues of ethics to light. Journalism rests on a

    foundation of unbiased storytelling and fair reporting, and deliverers of the news should strive

    for complete balance. Journalists have a responsibility to report accurately and fairly, but ethical

    issues often get in the way and force them to make choices and sacrifices. The issue of digital

    photo manipulation now has a permanent presence in all forms of journalism and has been rise in

    recent decades with the steady increase in technological advances. This issue tests the credibility

    and reliability of all journalists and changes the way journalism is viewed by the world . The

    worlds dependence and fixation on technology and a faster and better world has had a huge

    impact on journalistic standards in recent years. Everything is available on the internet and can

    be accessed through hand-held devices, which is also taken into consideration in this ethical

    situation. Newspapers, magazines, television, and most importantly, social networking sites, all

    struggle with the use of photo manipulation because of our technology-based society.

    The rise of technology and our societys reliance on it has evolved the foundation of

    journalism and journalistic ethical standards and norms. According to McQuail, the use of

    computer technology and the internet has greatly blurred the lines of journalism and mass

    communication and changed the way it is viewed by the public. Because the internet has little

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    regulation and all forms of journalism are now available online, including print journalism like

    newspapers and magazines, the uniqueness of other news outlets is quickly diminishing

    (McQuail, p. 41, 2010). Newspapers and magazines that are now offered online arguably lose

    their authenticity for some people because of their digitalization. Editing software programs

    such as Adobe Photoshop and Corel Digital Studio allow the user , or the journalist in this case,

    to alter and enhance images, no matter how big or small the change may be. The changes can be

    as simple as lightening or darkening the image, removing shadows, or changing colors, and as

    major as adding or removing elements of the photo or enhancing or changing people or objects in

    the photo. Oriez explained that the recent rise in photo manipulation is due to technological

    advances made in the past few decades:Starting in the 1980s, electronic imaging (mostly

    images scanned from film into computers at that time) made it possible to seamlessly move, add

    or delete every element within a photograph, thus bringing image manipulation to a whole new

    level.(Oriez, p. 5, 2009) The world of technology and what one can do with it seems endless,

    as does the availability of it. The accessibility of editing software and the increased number of

    journalists using these photo editing tools has created an upward, ethical struggle in the

    journalism of our generation.

    The pressure of being a journalist in this generation forces journalists to examine the

    morals and ethics they base their individual career on. Journalists are constantly being tested and

    pushed to their ethical limits because of the nature of the industry; they must decide what they

    are willing to sacrifice for their career. Choosing a career over ones ethical limits can be a

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    tough decision, and choosing ones standards over their career can be just as hard. Under the

    pressure to break stories first, journalists often overlook their ethical code in order to be the best

    and deliver the best story, no matter what lengths they must go to. The pressure to be on top as

    well as the quick pace of the industry are just two of the reasons some journalists justify the

    modification of photos:Photo manipulation is a quick route to good conceptual fit because the

    symbolic nature of photos may be reshaped to match symbolic messages in the text .(Lowrey,

    p. 133, 2003) Photo manipulation is a main example of journalists crossing ethical and moral

    lines; lying with a photo and manipulating its content is the same as manipulating elements of

    the actual written story. Still or moving images in journalism complement the story, but it is

    important that the corresponding photo be just as truthful as the story itself. Altering an image to

    make a bigger impact or fit the story better is unethical and breaks the mutual trust between

    journalists and the public. Photographs used to represent a single moment captured in time, but

    they can now be completely altered and enhanced at the touch of a button. Misleading or

    fabricated photos violate the journalism code of ethics and discredit the journalist and the media

    outlet they work for.

    Although the issue of dishonesty in journalism and photo manipulation isnt a new one, it

    certainly is more common in this generation. John Long, a previous National Press

    Photographers Association (NPAA) co-chair and president explained that the foundation of

    journalism will adapt to the changing times and fit the new society over time. The advent of

    computers and digital photography has not created the need for a whole new set of ethical

    standards. We are not dealing with something brand new. We merely have a new way of

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    processing images and the same principles that have guided us in traditional photojournalism

    should be the principles that guide us in the use of the computers. This fact makes dealing with

    computer related ethics far less daunting than if we had to begin from square one.(NPPA


    The line between artistic photos and journalistic photos is often blurred and

    misunderstood by many; the ethics that apply to journalistic photos are far more limiting than the

    ethics upheld for artistic photographs. The differentiation between the two needs to be addressed

    because it is so easy to confuse standards and underestimate the limitations provided by the

    journalism code of ethics. Photos are more likely to be altered ethically for artistic purposes

    rather than journalistic ones, as described by Lowrey. He explains that if photos are for artistic

    and aesthetic purposes, there are more leniencies when it comes to enhancement and alterations

    (Lowrey 2003). Lowrey explained a hypothesis that demonstrates the differentiation between art

    and journalism and their role on an ethical level. He suggested:The stronger the orientation of

    the design staff towards journalistic professional norms, the greater the likelihood of the

    existence of rules governing the photo.(Lowrey, p. 132, 2003) This means that when a

    photograph is used for artistic purposes, there are few rules regarding what or how the artist edits

    in the photo. But when a photograph is used for journalistic purposes, there are a series of rules

    that should be followed when editing the photograph; essentially, a still or moving image used in

    the media should represent the truth.

    At an Ohio newspaper called the Toledo Blade in April of 2007, photographer Allan

    Detrich became the subject of one of the most well-known and studied cases of photo

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    manipulation of our generation. Confirmed by an editor at the paper who gave a statement and

    an apology to the public after the ordeal, a photo taken and published by Detrich was found to be

    digitally altered. The photograph was of the Bluffington baseball team who had just returned to

    playing baseball after a deadly accident killed 5 of their teammates . The photo was missing a

    pair of another photographers legs from behind the fence. It was discovered that Detrich had

    edited the photos out when three other newspapers ran the same picture on the front page of their

    newspaper, but with the legs still in place. When Detrich was asked about the missing elements

    of the photograph, he replied that he wasnt sure what happened to them. The photographer later

    claimed that he edited the photo for his personal files and accidentally submitted the wrong copy ,

    but the Toledo Blade, as well as the public, was unforgiving, forcing Detrichs resignation just

    days after the incident (Winslow, April 5, 2007).

    After Detrichs photo editing scandal at the Toledo Blade became public, seventy-nine

    more manipulated photos surfaced, which were published over a time frame of only fourteen

    weeks. In many of the photos, Detrich didnt just retouch or enhance them; he used Adobe

    Photoshop to take elements out of photos or edit objects into them and manipulate the images to

    enhance the story and boost his reputation as a photographer (Winslow, April 15, 2007). The

    aftermath of Detrichs dishonesty caused Toledo Blade executive editor Ron Royhab to plead the

    public for forgiveness:Its impossible to make sense of why this happened, and we are

    embarrassed by itIn th