January 23, 2014

Truth in photojournalism

There is no such thing as acceptable manipulation

It is disappointing, but not surprising, to read that another high profile photojournalist has suffered an ethical fall from grace. As reported on news sites including The Guardian and Politico, AP freelancer and Pulitzer prize winning photographer Narciso Contreras has admitted to manipulating a news photo taken for the agency while covering the conflict in Syria.

The reaction by the AP was swift and decisive. The fallout on social media has been more divided and that I find perplexing. Though the area manipulated in the photo was relatively small and insignificant to the scene being depicted, the decision by the photographer to remove a videographer’s camera which was intruding into the frame because he felt it might distract viewers is inexcusable.

In the race to be competitive, photojournalists cannot forgo their principles. It is a slippery slope to allow an “acceptable amount of manipulation” in news. Reputations are quite literally at stake.

Under constant pressure from alternative news sources and citizen journalism, mainstream media struggle daily to remain relevant. One of the pillars of their defense is that professional, trained journalists provide unbiased, unfiltered, unmanipulated news.

Perhaps what is needed is more education.

Dennis Owen
Photographer at Exposure


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