News agencies and publications value their reputation and go to great lengths to protect it. I don’t think the average person would trust reports from a newspaper that’s known to manipulate or do heavy edits on the photos that they publish. I mean, would you?
Sometimes, the situation is out of the hands of the news agencies. For example, they were unaware that a photo released by the Korean Central News Agency from Kim Jong-Il’s funeral had been edited to remove a group of people from the image. Once they found out, though, the photo was immediately pulled from their sites.
But other times, they aren’t–especially if the source of the manipulated image was one of its own staff members.
The second case was what happened recently with the Sacramento Bee. By all means, the story wasn’t exactly front page hitting news. However, the principle remains the same, regardless of the type of story.
It was a bit of a surprise for many, however, because the photo splicing was done by longtime staff photographer Bryan Patrick. The crazy thing is that he also happens to be an award-winning photographer, so I don’t understand what he could possibly have been thinking when he spliced the two photographs together.
In light of the incident, the Sacramento Bee has suspended Patrick and issued the following explanation: “The Bee’s ethics policy strictly forbids such manipulation of documentary photographs. It is considered a violation of our core values, as it misrepresents the accuracy of the event. When we alter a photograph for illustrative purposes, we disclose that at the time of publication.The Bee regrets the publication of this photograph and apologizes to our readers.”
The photo manipulation was clearly a huge ethical violation–one that Sean Elliot, who is the president of the National Press Photographers Association, called a “betrayal.” Elliot stated: “If this photographer in Sacramento can diddle around with a photograph of an egret, how can I know that any photograph I look at is trustworthy? It feels like a betrayal. It violates a feeling of trust I think we have with all of our members.”