Ethical considerations in publishing news images
Publishing a news image has become even more complicated since the new digital age and the rise in social media, which means that photojournalists now have to consider the ethical decisions they make more closely than they did several years ago. However, some ethical boundaries are clearer than others and it is in a photojournalist’s best interest to be informed of those ethics before they go ahead and publish a picture they think the public wants to see. If they don’t it could cost them their job, their reputation and hurt those connected with the photograph. Is it right to say a photograph should stay in its original condition if Photoshop enhances its visual aspects and makes it more pleasing to look at? Should we publish photographs of war and conflict if it makes people feel uncomfortable and gets in the way of politics or justice? Can we take a roll of film and start cutting and pasting the images together without calling it manipulation? My argument in this essay is that, to be a better photojournalist, we have to look further into the ethical issues that have occurred in the past and analyse what it means to be a photojournalist who works with honesty and integrity. The occurrence of manipulating images has risen since the sophistication of design and new media technology. The pressure to produce the perfect image is driving some photojournalists to put aside ethics. Kobre states “staging or manipulating pictures can be highly damaging to careers.” A recent example of this is the Sacramento Bee photo (Image 1) that was manipulated by an award-winning photographer who used Photoshop to put two photos together to produce a better picture. Sean Elliot (President of the National Press Photographers Association) says “cases of photo manipulation like this chip away at all photojournalists’ credibility with the public.”
Most if not all photojournalists would argue that manipulation goes against the...
References: Kobre, K. (2008) "Ethics" in Photojournalism: the professionals ' approach. Burlington, USA: Focal Press
Parrish, F. (2002) “Ethics and Taste” in Photojournalism. An Introduction. Belmont: Wadsworth Thomson Learning
Quinn, Aaron. (2004) “Manipulation in Photojournalism: is it ethical? is it corrupt?” : School of Communication, Charles Sturt University, Bathurst Centre for Applied Philosophy and Public Ethics, Canberra, Australia
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