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Monday, October 13, 2008

Ethics in Photojournalism

As photojournalists, news photographers are held with equal if not higher regard for documenting the truth without manipulation. In the past few years we have seen a massive crackdown on ethics of editing as Digital has made manipulation much easier than the days of having to process film, and developed plates for printing. There still are unanswered questions on how much dodging, burning, dust-spot removal a photojournalist can do without affecting the photo in a way that no-longer accurately represents the “truth.” These needs to still be addressed, however, for now an even greater problem is facing us as personal agendas start playing a roll in election coverage.

NPPA Code of Ethics

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As this election nears, I am constantly reminded that journalists are not always being “fair and balanced” (to quote a FOX News term) and this disturbs me. With this (almost 2 year) campaign cycle comes to its crescendo with the November elections more and more questions are being raised about what journalists are manipulating the images and reports in some form to suite a personal agenda for or against the candidate they are covering.

As a photojournalist myself I find many colleagues talking about this and laughing over a bad published shot of Candidate A or B. Even on this site we have reported on photographers possibly expressing their personal agendas (see links below) But I want to give this reminder to all fellow photojournalists and journalists (tv/print reporters) alike. YOU HAVE A RESPONSIBILITY, and that is to report the news without bias. Sure if your radio personality or internet blogger who is reporting from a “one side” view and your readers and listeners know it, this is one thing. HOWEVER if you’re a big news syndicate, magazine or news paper it is YOUR duty to report both in words and visuals in a neutral manner.

The NPPA (National Press Photographers of America) has a code of ethics that I think all of us, journalists and non-alike, need to review to make sure we are reporting accurately and how to identify potential bias and complain about it.

Am I saying crucify everyone for a “misconstrued” photo or paragraph, no, but it wouldn’t hurt to put them on warning that your watching them and that they should be staying on their toes to be as un-bias as humanly possible. We are all human and have personal interests, and even I have caught myself gritting my teeth when covering a politician or two and he/she says XYZ when the question or problem is actually 123, but i still try my best to produce an accurate nutural-photo of the event.

So as the marathon comes into its final miles we must reflect and realize that only as an educated individual can we accurately vote for the best candidate and not as some pawn in a reporters or campaign’s game of chess.

ps. If you do anything, please remember these first 3 rules in the NPPA code of Ethics:

# Be accurate and comprehensive in the representation of subjects.
# Resist being manipulated by staged photo opportunities.
# Be complete and provide context when photographing or recording subjects. Avoid stereotyping individuals and groups. Recognize and work to avoid presenting one’s own biases in the work.

Links to Imaging Insider Articles on potential political miss-conduct: (Best: Photoshop and Politics) (not miss-conduct but a former journalist publishes a book on a candidate after covering him for a few weeks)

Photographer admits bias, set on a photographer who photographed McCain for a magazine: (all 3)

Article by Imaging Insider’s Brendan Cavanaugh
Originally posted on 10/10/08

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