Another. Altered. Photo.

Sean Elliot, NPPA Secretary, chief photographer and all-around good guy, pointed this out to me today – the Charlotte (Fla.) Sun “accidentally” moved an altered image to the Associated Press last week.

The unaltered image ran in the paper on Saturday. According to Executive Editor Jim Gouvellis, the photographer noticed the altered image had been sent while she was making a reprint for a customer. To quote the NPPA story:

Gouvellis said the cleaned-up file that was made for the resale print was never intended to go to AP or anywhere else, that it was to be used only for a customer who was purchasing a print.

Ahem.

Here comes the rant …

If we’re going to do journalism and say the photo is accurate, then it needs to stay accurate in ALL of its forms. Doctoring images for reprints is not right. The same ethical standards we apply to the printed images needs to be applied to the web and everywhere else.

Mr. Elliot asked in his email to me if we need to ban the clone tool altogether. And while it has moments of usefulness – such as cleaning up dust spots – maybe it’s time editors start lobbying Adobe for a “journalism safe” version of Photoshop since we can’t seem to police ourselves.

To give credit where credit is due, it was the photographer, Sarah Coward, who notified her editors and the AP.

But, again – why was anyone altering a NEWS PHOTO? All the public will remember from this instance was someone at the Charlotte Sun digitally altered an image. The fact that it never made it into print is irrelevant, the paper – and our industry – is tainted by this event, further eroding our credibility.

UPDATE: Thanks to commentor Christian for pointing out I had the wrong state above. Now fixed.