Category Ethics & Legal

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.


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.

Defending McCurry

There’s been a bit of a storm brewing over a New York Times piece by Teju Cole about the work of Steve McCurry, one of the legendary National Geographic photojournalists.

I … don’t agree with his assessment but don’t feel qualified to take it on. Allen Murabayashi from PhotoShelter, though, has completely encapsulated my thoughts on the matter.

Having an obvious subject with tack sharp focus and proper exposure doesn’t mean a photo is devoid of layers of interest and interpretation.

Murabayashi’s sentiment aligns with my own here – the current fad of making low quality images to impart a gritty “realness” to them is ridiculous. We have spent nearly 200 years improving the quality of cameras through better lenses, better film stocks and now better sensors – why on earth do we apply “lo-fi” filters and strip out detail, accuracy and comprehension?

My student have heard this rant before – let the content of the image move your audience, don’t screw with their emotions with technique.

Secret Service Agent Throws Photojournalist to the Ground at Trump Event

A United States Secret Service agent choked and threw photojournalist Christopher Morris to the ground at a Donald Trump event in Virginia. It is unclear what provoked this response at this point in time, but it is phenomenally disturbing.

Mr. Morris has spent more than 40 years covering conflicts internationally and is a highly regarded photojournalist who was on assignment for Time.

This Week in Athens: First Amendment Issues, Copyright Registrations Workshop

Big things happening this week …

Friday, January 22: First Amendment Issues in Public Spaces – This event is jointly hosted by Grady College and the National Press Photographers Association with generous support from the Sinclair Broadcast Group and will feature multiple panels and discussions prompted by the events at the University of Missouri in November. Panelists will include the two student journalists who were harassed while trying to cover an event on the public quad of a public university. Registration is free and includes lunch, but time is running short to register.

Sunday, January 24: Copyright Registration Workshop – One of the leading experts on how to efficiently register your works with the Copyright Office will lead a hands-on workshop. You’ll learn how to prepare your images, fill out all the online forms and make your deposit with the Copyright Office to ensure you have the full protection of federal law. This event is free for NPPA members, $25 for non-members – please register online.

Both of these events will be at the University of Georgia’s Henry W. Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication in Athens, see the above links for more information.