Monday, August 07, 2006

Photojournalism and Photoshop

If you haven't heard, Reuters is burning down over some agenda-driven journalism and a little ham-fisted photoshop work.

I was in journalism in high school, and I sometimes work as a semiprofessional photographer now. Not in journalism; I shoot some sports and event photography. I use photoshop quite a bit, generally for getting a picture 'just right' or to correct something I missed when I took the shot. (I am also a lazy photographer.)

To alter images this way is perfectly acceptable, in my mind. Some people don't think images in contests should be manipulated at all; I submit that even in conventional photography, there is a good deal that can be done to significantly change basic elements of a picture. Cropping comes to mind. For that matter, photography as the final judge in what happened isn't really that decisive a tool. The photographer can decide what is seen, without ever changing anything after the fact. Digital has just made it easier, and faster.

Journalism is very different, based on the intentions of the person who changes the image. I do not have a problem changing light levels or color balance or cleaning up dust or scratches. But when you add or remove things in an image that change the story told, you are shaping the news to your belief. Just as reporters can lie about quotes and events, you can make an image lie, too. The mainstream media, while perhaps destined to not be as mainstream as time goes on, is doing that now. I believe editorialism has been in broadcast media for decades; and if you don't think the media is slanted, I am not going to waste my breath trying to convince you.

The emergence of the new media, specifically blogs, has a chance at waking up the old media; when the major news outlets put up something that is not completely factual, the blogs will call BS pretty quick. Little Green Footballs, among others, caught this episode. LGF also proved without a doubt the Dan Rather memos were amateurish creations, typed up by some political hack with default Microsoft Word settings. Other blogs have shown other photos from the current war in Lebanon are staged. There is now an army of bloggers looking at every photograph out of the area now, and you can bet that when something that does not fit the known facts is found, blogs will point it out.

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