Sunday, December 21, 2008

An Anatomy of Free Press

For photojournalism, when you have to take the shot right there and then, there's no skill or preparation can guarantee technical perfection. Photo editor Joe of a local paper portrait in length of a discussion with his colleagues on whether or not it's ethic or professional for a photojournalist to remove red-eye effects with photo editing software. Joe used the opportunity to illustrate the high bar a photojournalist must pass in daily working.

I had an experience covering a same game with Joe once. That was the first game in the season. At the beginning, the players received a ring from the club. Of course that's one of the photo moment you have to catch. Each ring comes in a small box, which made it difficult to find a good angle to shoot the picture. Joe approached one player, ask him to 'show' him the ring, and took a shot. I noticed John, another photographer on the scene, shook his head in an apparent despise. This begs the real question: how much editing is acceptable?

There's actually no standard, and most people follows the practice of reputed larger firms, such as NYT. Then who decides the ethics laws at NYT? Recall the famous and iconic scene when Iraqi people pulled down dictator Saddam's statue after the liberation of Baghdad in a celebration. The pictures released by Reuters and AP made it look like thousands of local people joined the celebration, while in reality only dozens of airborne Iraqi Americans exiles took part. In that case, pictures surely did not reflect the fact, but would that (shooting from weird angle and cropping) be considering photo manipulation? In another example, NBC digitally replaced the backdrop of their Evening News, so that the Time Square buildings carries a Toyota logo in place of a real Honda logo (for the sake of argument). Should this be considered digital manipulation? The third strike came recently: court ruled that news agencies produce news as a product, and had lawful right to process the 'news', without no obligation to the truthfulness of it. This was regarding the milk case if you remember.

See, there's really no real ethic standard in the news media after all. The perceptive meaning of a free media is that the media is free to tell the truth, while in reality, it's that the media is free to make up any story that sells.

No comments: