Photojournalism and Ethics

News is not only portrayed through words, but it is also shown through photos.  Another part of journalism is the art of photojournalism.

"Returning Veterans, Coming Home" by Andrew Lichtenstein

So, what exactly is photojournalism?  It is the collecting, editing, and presenting of news material for a print publication or broadcast.  People may consider this material still images or video.  Photojournalists make hard decisions on when and how to take the perfect photo while reporting.

Photojournalists, like all journalists, value timeliness to show recent news. They value objectivity, to portray accurate information of a story.

To be a photojournalist, one must follow ethical guidelines.  The National Press Photographers Association (NPPA) created their own code of ethics.  They recognize that the public should be aware of new and events to feel like they are part of the world they live in.

Here are nine ethical guidelines to follow:

  1. Be accurate in representing your subject.
  2. Don’t stage your photos.
  3. Give context with your photos.  Don’t stereotype people or show bias.
  4. Be respectful of your subjects in all situations, like crime, tragedy, or times when they need privacy.
  5. Don’t try to change the event you are reporting on.
  6. Do not manipulate your images while editing to misrepresent your subject.
  7. Do not reward people for their participation.
  8. Do not accept gifts, etc. from people that might influence your coverage.
  9. Do not get in the way of the efforts of other journalists.

All journalists should be aware of these guidelines.  Sometimes, they will have take their own photos or video, especially when working in a smaller market.

For great examples of photojournalism, check out 2010’s Top Photojournalists, according to NPPA.

There have been controversies over usage of Photoshop and other tools for manipulation of photos, as the Digital News Journalist site of the City University of New York discusses.

Merged photos by Brian Walski of LA Times

Some photojournalists have been caught using Photoshop to change the context of their photos.  Brian Walski of the LA Times photographed a soldier with Iraqi civilians in 2003.  The top two photos on the right were merged together to produce the bottom photograph.  Another man discovered that these were altered, and he reported Walski.  This manipulation violated the newspaper’s policy.  Therefore, Walski was fired.

Photojournalism ethics are crucial to follow to preserve one’s career and reputation.

Although commercial items are not considered to be necessarily photojournalism, advertisers use Photoshop to alter images.  Dove also released a campaign about real beauty and evolution, showing the effects of Photoshop:

The public should be aware of tools photographers have access to.  Therefore they can make judgment on the images they see in the news.

– Karen Hansen

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This entry was posted in Journalism Jobs, Law and ethics, Multimedia, News coverage and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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