Category Ethics & Legal

Secret Deals During WWII

Fascinating story about how the Associated Press cut a deal with the Nazis to get images out of Germany during World War II.

I find some fault or under-reporting of this story in how they describe whether member news organizations knew they were publishing Nazi propaganda. There is a difference between the captions the AP transmits with photos and the cutlines that news organizations publish. Using a few published clips as evidence that the AP didn’t notify members is, at best, incomplete reporting and, at worst, incorrect reporting. Without seeing how the original Wirephotos were sent it’s impossible to know what the AP told its members.

Still, a lot to talk about in an ethics lesson here.

Stock Photos … Why?

It’s been a while, but here we go again … my local publication, the Athens Banner-Herald, had a nice piece looking at our local YMCA. It’s 160 years old and, according to the story, was the third YMCA opened in the country – that’s a pretty cool fact.

They have a gallery of images from to go with the story – some historical photos, a current one of the building. A nice package overall.

And then I get to the last photo in the gallery …

… and it seems odd. Why is there a fade bar around it? Why no faces? Why no logos?

Why? Because it’s a stock photo, that’s why. It appears on other YMCA web sites, it appears on PlaySportsTV and it appears on the Starkville Soccer Association site, too.

In fact, a reverse image search has the same image appearing on dozens of web sites.

Why? It’s a stock photo. A generic image associated with no story. It doesn’t belong on a news web site.

This is the consequence of not having photo editors.

NPPA Voting Opens

It’s time to vote for openings on the National Press Photographers Association’s board of directors and a couple of regional chairs. I started reading through the bios for all the candidates this morning – there are some phenomenally good people running this year, choosing just two for the board will be brutal.

Think deeply about what you want our of our association – and, remember, it is ours. We are members and not subscribers. Read the bios, ponder deeply and get your vote cast by November 30.

The number of folks who vote fluctuates, but if you care about visual journalism, if you care about our NPPA, then it is your obligation to vote.

Image Theft for Political Gain

Let the copyright violation season begin – though usually it’s not the high level candidates who do this.

Photo Editors Please, or At Least Visual Awareness (Updated)

It seems that I am on a multi-year rant about my local news organization. I pay my subscription, I read it every day online, spend time with the delivered Sunday edition and I truly appreciate that they are severely understaffed. That the depth of their coverage has suffered is sad and I do not find fault with the individual journalists – photojournalists, reporters and editors – for the stories they miss. That’s economics, that’s the result of poor judgement on the part of past managers.

What I do take issue with is the sloppiness of the editing, the lack of awareness of what they have published and their seeming inability to improve what they have through simple adjustments.

Like, perhaps, looking at the front page and seeing that an obituary story, that has now been on the front of their web site for more than a day, features a teaser photo of the woman’s chest. Not her face, as in the adjacent stories of men, but of her cleavage.

(And, for those who know me, yeah, it’s come to me talking about cleavage on this site. That’s how frustrating this is.)

I get that this is a wire service feed, that it is automated at some level. And, as with most other issues I have with the Athens Banner-Herald, I do not suspect any level of malice here.

In my classes, we talk about ethical transgressions of commission and omission. The former is an active attempt to deceive, think Jason Blair or Allan Dietrich. For whatever reason, they made a choice to lie because they did not care about their audience.

Transgressions of omission are, I suspect, much more common and more insidious. They come from failed processes, they come from a lack of awareness, they come from a lack of training. In the end, though, they again symbolize a lack of care.

Newsrooms are limited in their resources and need to make decisions about what to cover and what to publish. Part of that decision making process needs to ensure that what they do publish is both accurate and fair, that they have the resources to execute that coverage properly.

If you don’t have someone to monitor automated feeds, to at least check in once a few hours, then you need to decide if the risk of something going wrong is worth it. And here, my local news publication failed us.

Again.

UPDATE: After 34 hours, someone finally fixed the image. No note, no comment, just fixed it. Here’s what she looks like:

Why We Need Photo Editors, Olympic Second Edition

Chances that there was not a photo editor working on this page are pretty high. You can’t be an authority on anything if you can’t get facts right – and this is, at its core, a fact error.

(Thanks to Steve Fox for the link.)

Getty Images Sued, Again

Can a photo agency license public domain works? That’s the question that will come up in a copyright claim case that Carol Highsmith is filing against Getty Images, claiming they have pulled images she holds the copyright to but put in the public domain (through the Library of Congress) and has been charging fees on.

Self portrait of photographer Carol M. Highsmith, via a broken mirror that she photographed during the Willard Hotel restoration. Washington, D.C.

Self portrait of photographer Carol M. Highsmith, via a broken mirror that she photographed during the Willard Hotel restoration. Washington, D.C.

Grace and Power

I suspect there will be a lot of discussions in my classes about Jonathan Bachman’s image of two Baton Rouge police officers approaching a woman to arrest her. Allen Murabayashi has a nice compilation of commentary over at PhotoShelter, a good starting point.

Not Trusting Our Viewers

There has been a lot written about the images of Steve McCurry being altered – whether is was his staff, his staff under his direction or the man himself doesn’t really matter. The images were altered and a photographer who has been held highly for decades for his journalism work is not rebranding himself as a “visual storyteller.”

Which is fine, I actually have no problem with him going forward with that. I do have some issues with him repurposing older work, from an era when he branded himself as a photojournalist. It is his work, he can do with it as he sees fit, but I think it should be disclosed that these images have been altered.

That’s just my opinion.

Over at Reading the Pictures, Lewis Bush has his take on the situation.* In it, there’s this one line that really resonated with me that I think anyone working under the auspices of journalism should take to heart:

I’m mad because (as we now know) he’s forcing me to remain in the foreground, to track horizontally, and far worse, he’s communicating that I can’t be trusted with the details.

That last phrase … that hits hard. When we alter images (or quotes or data), we are essentially saying we don’t tryst our audience to come to the conclusion we want. And that is a phenomenally arrogant thought.

As journalists (I’m not going to deal with the newly self-applied “visual storyteller” monicker any further), it is imperative that we act as a conduit for information – perhaps a bit of a translator, but never as an interpreter. It is imperative that we present information as it is, not altered, not re-colored and not manipulated.

* I’m making an assumption this piece is by Lewis Bush. He is on their masthead and is listed as one of the tags below the piece but there is no formal byline on the site.

Where the Press Isn’t Free

The New York Times has an interesting piece up about photojournalist Maya Vidon-White who photographed a dying victim of the November terrorist attacks in Paris and is now being sued for doing so. The story talks about the ethical challenges of covering conflicts, but it’s really about the legal challenges – in France, you can’t photograph the victims of terrorism without their permission.