Importance of professional photographers

Earlier this week, Marissa Mayer, the CEO of Yahoo said in a press conference, “there’s really no such thing as professional photographers anymore.”

As Jim Colton expressed on his blog, this is an insult to all professional photographers (and photojournalists).

The average person might have access to the same tools and social media makes it easy to share photographs.

But there are major differences between a professional photographer and the average citizen or so-called citizen journalist.

Professional photographers are willing to risk their lives in order to do their jobs as evident in recent crisis situations such as the Boston Marathon bombing and the tornado that struck Oklahoma City.

Chicago Tribune photographer Alex Garcia wrote on his blog:

When spectators with cameras were fleeing, they headed towards the madness of the explosion. [Boston Globe photojournalist John] Tlumacki took his iconic picture just 15 seconds after the first explosion.

Garcia explains that news photographers have a unique mission to share and bear witness unlike the casual observer with a camera.

Journalists have a responsibility to inform the public and to not mislead them.

In previous posts, I discussed the importance of ethics and the role that journalists (photojournalists) play, especially during times of crisis.

In addition, news photographers are expected to abide by a code of ethics.

As I wrote  in Why Media Literacy Matters – Quality journalism and ethics:

To ensure that photojournalists do not alter photographs or report stories that deceive the public, news organizations and the NPPA have established codes of ethics that they must abide by. Credibility is the greatest asset of journalists. It is wrong to alter the content of a photograph in any way (electronically or in the darkroom) that deceives the public. The preamble of the NPPA Code of Ethics states that photographs can cause great harm if they are manipulated.

Another difference between the professional and the average citizen is that professionals are trained to do their jobs.

 

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Why Media Literacy Matters – Quality journalism and ethics, part 2

Journalists must not mislead.

Whether through words or images, they must always tell the truth.

In my previous post, I talked about ethics and why journalists must not manipulate their images.

People see the world, through the images and the stories presented by the media. The public has given journalists their trust and therefore they cannot mislead them.

The Washington Post photograph as it appeared on the Post web site (above) and as it was entered in the WHNPA contest (below).

The Washington Post photograph as it appeared on the Post web site (above) and as it was entered in the WHNPA contest (below).

Earlier this week, the White House News Photographers Association released a statement saying that they would disqualify a Washington Post photograph that recently won an award in the WHNPA annual contest.

The photographer entered a photograph that was digitally altered.

Editors at the Post discovered that the altered image was different from the one originally published.

The Post has a code of ethics that prohibits photo manipulation.

As I have previously stressed, even journalists need an understanding of media literacy.

They need to know how their work influence the public.

There is a need for professional ethics education.

Education programs are important because they serve to provide guidelines to help people make ethical decisions.

People who have a desire to work in the field of journalism need to be taught how to correctly use the tools.

However, guidelines and codes of ethics are not enough. Even Enron had a set of values and rules that was supposed to emphasize integrity and respect. Yet, the company lost its way and allowed unethical behavior to destroy the company.

An organization needs to have a code of ethics and conduct but they also need leaders who promote ethical behavior by setting an example.

Kudos to the Post for taking action.

Why Media Literacy Matters – Quality journalism and ethics

In a previous post I talked about the importance of quality journalism and why journalists also need media literacy education.

Photojournalists need to remind themselves about the ethics of journalism. This applies to both contests and published work.

Allen Murabayashi wrote an article titled, “Why Do Photo Contest Winners Look Like Movie Posters?”

In another article, Murabayashi explains that the next two photos are the World Press Photo of the Year 2012. The top image is the submitted image that won, and the lower image is how it was first published.

According to Murabayashi,

“The range of emotions expressed (anger, grief, despair), the position of the people and bodies, and proximity of the photographer to the subject make it an incredible moment in time. And because of these elements, this photo was deservedly named the World Press Photo of the Year. It also looks like an illustration.”

Like Murabayashi, I also prefer the “original” image better.

This is not the first time an entry has been manipulated.

Brian Patrick, an award-winning photojournalist, manipulated an image he took of a wildfire in 2009 that he submitted to the San Francisco Bay Area Press Photographers Association’s annual photo contest. For more information, visit http://www.poynter.org/latest-news/mediawire/161983/sacramento-bee-fires-bryan-patrick-for-photo-manipulation/

This is also not the first instance of photojournalists manipulating their images.

Patrick was fired from the Sacramento Bee on February 4, 2012 for the violation of ethics by digitally altering photographs. Patrick had digitally altered photographs on more than one occasion.

In April 2003, the Los Angeles Times fired Brian Walski, a photographer who covered the war in Iraq for the newspaper. According to Kenneth Irby of the Poynter Institute, Walski was fired on April 1, 2003 for submitting a photograph that was a composite of two different photographs he had taken.

Patrick Schneider is another photojournalist that was fired for digitally manipulating photographs. Schneider altered images on more than one occasion. According to Sherry Ricchiardi, on August 15, 2003, the North Carolina Press Photographers Association revoked three awards that were given to him, ruling he had improperly manipulated images in the editing process.

To ensure that photojournalists do not alter photographs or report stories that deceive the public, news organizations and the NPPA have established codes of ethics that they must abide by. Credibility is the greatest asset of journalists. It is wrong to alter the content of a photograph in any way (electronically or in the darkroom) that deceives the public. The preamble of the NPPA Code of Ethics states that photographs can cause great harm if they are manipulated.

Falsified images are unethical because they deceive the viewer.

Even journalists need an understanding of media literacy. They need to be careful and ensure that accurate information is shared. They need to know how their work influence the public.

As I said in a previous post, most professional journalists are trained to report truthfully and have a strong grasp on media literacy. However, they are human and can make mistakes.

It does not hurt to reevaluate the importance of media literacy training.

It is the responsibility of journalists to inform and educate the public on important issues that affect their lives and the world. But in order for journalists to accomplish this task, they must have the trust of the people.

People see the world, through the images and the stories presented by the media. The public has given journalists their trust and therefore they cannot mislead them.

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References

Irby, K. (2003, April 2). L.A. Times Photographer Fired Over Altered Image. Poynter Institute. Retrieved from http://www.poynter.org/how-tos/newsgathering-storytelling/9289/l-a-times-photographer-fired-over-altered-image/

Ricchiardi, S. (2007). Distorted Picture. American Journalism Review, August/September. Retrieved from http://www.ajr.org/article.asp?id=4383

Murabayashi, A. (2013). Why Do Photo Contest Winners Look Like Movie Posters?. Retrieved from http://blog.photoshelter.com/2013/02/why-do-photo-contest-winners-look-like-movie-posters/

Murabayashi, A. (2013). Darkrooms are Irrelevant and The Truth Matters. Retrieved from http://blog.photoshelter.com/2013/02/darkrooms-are-irrelevant-and-the-truth-matters/

National Press Photographers Association. (n.d). NPPA Code of Ethics. Retrieved from             https://nppa.org/code_of_ethics