This week, I was skimming through iMediaEthics and came upon the topic of fake photos. More specifically, there was a story on “Australian Shark Photo a Fake, News Duped by Photoshopped Selfie.” As silly as this story sounds, this definitely isn’t the first instance of viral photos confusing the media. Fake pictures are more common than ever, and sometimes can look incredibly realistic. Not always, but sometimes. Example, the BBC posted this article on fake pictures of the Rohingya crisis.
These stories make me think more about the general use of editing in journalism. You can view the various code of ethics for photojournalism here. There is most certainly a difference between light retouching and complete manipulation of a photo. For example, from AdWeek is this article on “10 News photos that took retouching too far.” This is an opinion piece from The Guardian on how “Photoshop is killing photojournalism.”
In March, Poynter’s Kenneth Irby wrote “Photojournalism ethics needs a reexamination.” And maybe that’s true. I don’t think photoshop is killing photojournalism. As someone who has worked in graphic design, I can tell you it’s extremely useful. However, with the advanced made in photography, photo editing and social media – there are strides to be made to ensure the quality of news photos being displayed are accurate. News photos should be visual representations of how things were, not as how we imagined them to be. Unless that’s the story I guess? Photos aid stories, they are excellent visuals and are always eye catching. But they should always be accurate. If a photo is being spread virally, and a news organization wants to post about it – until it is verified as factual, they should post a disclaimer on where the photo was acquired.
There is more to be discussed on the ethical dilemmas faced by photojournalists, but that is for another time.