Fact or Fiction: Ethics and Photojournalism

Today, a photograph accompanies nearly every news story. But, in the age of technology savvy media specialists and advanced computer programs, how is a consumer to decipher fiction from reality? True journalistic photography captures the facts of a story, and serves as a supplement to the prose.

Sometimes a journalistic photograph is controversial. It may elicit negative emotions, turn readers away, or damage public loyalty to a publication. If it has been altered, it will negatively affect the credibility of the publication.

“With all the other ethical issues photojournalists should be concerned about, picture manipulation, especially through the use of computers, is a topic journalists are most concerned about, said Paul Martin Lester in Photojournalism An Ethical Approach, “The threat to credibility is irreversible if the public starts to mistrust the integrity of the news photograph.”

A journalist must adhere to the Society of Professional Journalist Code of Ethics where “deliberate distortion is never permissible.”

With the drive to sell news, photo manipulation is a tempting act. However, the creation of new truths not only leads to loss of credibility, it may also result in loss of employment. Media distortion may cause unintentional prejudice, put subjects in danger, or perpetuate fiction. Readers must question the accuracy of all visual media.


-Kristin Frosch

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