Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Patrick Schneider: Where is the line?

In an ideal world, knowing where to draw the line in terms of what is acceptable in photo manipulation would be as easy as saying don't do it, at all. However, in a world of digital photography where electronic image sensors actively attract dust and automatic white balances give faulty colors, post-processing is often a necessity. Those needs transform what would be a stark line into a fuzzy mess.

In 2003 the North Carolina Press Photographers Association rescinded three picture of the year awards it had given to Patrick Schneider of the Charlotte Observer. After concerns were raised by by other photographers, an examination had found that his contest shots had been altered significantly enough to change the content and scene of the photos. Those images are compared before and after manipulation by Poynter here.

The problem lies in deciding what types, and what amount of manipulation is ethically allowable. Schneider has made the argument that the techniques he used when editing his photos were processes, like dodging and burning, that had been used since the dawn of photography in the dark room, only transferred to the computer. On this point, he is correct. It should be made clear though, that there is a long history of image manipulation that occurred before the invention of digital processing. Just because something is possible in the dark room does not make it acceptable. Schneider's manipulations, in at least the image whose background was removed, took those simple techniques to an extreme that effectively changed the photo's content.

Just after he was stripped of his awards, Schneider appeared on NPR's All Things Considered talking about what he had done. It appears as though he was making no attempt to maliciously deceive his editors or the public. He was simply unable to resist the desire to manipulate his photos to give them more impact. He even acknowledged that his edits went over the line.

"I know that I probably went too far on some of my burns, and my paper has made our standards clear," said Schneider in interview with Poynter's Kennith Irby during NPPA's 14th annual Women in Photojournalism conference in 2003. "I will no longer tone my background down that far."

As a reaction the Observer, and papers across the country, tightened its photo ethics guidelines. The paper also gave Schneider a stern warning to not manipulate any more images, at all.

Three years later, in 2006, Schneider altered the colors in a photo of a firefighter silhouetted against the sun atop a ladder. When the change was discovered, he was fired from the paper. In reality, the manipulation in this image is not extreme or malicious, but Schneider's history made it the straw that broke the camel's back.

In the end, Schneider's case has come to serve as a warning to other photojournalists. Any manipulation, not just malicious, can get you in serious trouble and cost you your career. One must only use manipulation software for the simplest of edits. In general, if you are making an edit to actively give an image more impact stop take a step back. You are likely far closer to that fuzzy line than you should be.

Dan Rather and CBS

On Sept. 8, 2004, Dan Rather reported on 60 Minutes for their Wednesday edition that a series of memos critical of President George Bush's Texas Air National Guard service record had been discovered. The memos were found in the personal offices of Lt. Bush's former commanding officer, Lt. Col. Jerry B Killian. The authenticity of these documents quickly gathered suspicion by a small group of conservative bloggers. They initially based their reasoning that the memos were proportionally printed and displayed other modern typographic conventions with limited availability on military typewriters of the time. This led to claims that the memos were forgeries. The accusations then spread over the following days into mainstream media outlets, including The Washington Post, The New York Times and The Chicago Sun-Times. CBS and Dan rather initially defended the story. The insisted that the documents were authenticated by experts. After contradiction and curiosity, CBS found that the memos had been forged. After the incident, Dan Rather said he was pressured into reporting that their story was incomplete and misleading to the public.
CBS then forced Dan Rather to resign from his current anchor position, which was quickly followed by a suit from Rather. On the petition was Leslie Moonves, chief executive, Viacom's executive chairman, Sumner Redstone and Andrew Heyward, the former president of CBS. According to SPJ Code of Ethics, journalists should be honest, fair and courageous. They should also seek truth and report it accurately. CBS failed to get proper and accurate sources for their story. Another point on the code of ethics would be having accountability for stories. Dan Rather worked for CBS and was a high profile journalist. After the controversy, he immediately put the blame on the CBS executives. As journalists, we are responsible for our reporting and what we make public to the media.

By: Lauren Bickford and Cassie Delgado

Plata o plomo?

"Money or lead?" is what residents from the U.S.-Mexico border are being asked, according to ABC news.

How far should news coverage go if life is threatened? Reporting on the border turn out to be one of the dangerous assignments a reporter can take.

According to the International Herald Tribune, Mexico has become one of the most dangerous places to practice journalism, outside of Iraq. The San Antonio Express-News says Mexico is among the deadliest places to be a journalist.

"Drug dealers and corrupt police officers regularly kill those who write about them, leading most reporters to censor themselves," the International Herald Tribune reads.

Should reporters risk their lives to cover the news? How far should the media go in getting the news?

Nuevo Laredo is a small town with a population over 350,000 (census 2005). Located across from Laredo, TX, it has made perfect spot for drug smuggling for years.

According to the Laredo Morning Times, the history of violence began in 2001 when the Gulf cartel’s Zeta battled for control in Nuevo Laredo against the Sinaloa Cartel, headed by Joaquin “Chapo” Guzman Loera, according to federal court documents.

In 2001, the Zeta group rented houses for drug trafficking.
According to the Laredo Morning Times, the Zetas were involved in shipping firearms from Dallas to Nuevo Laredo in 2003.

By 2005, Zetas, both U.S. and Mexican citizens, had safe houses in Laredo. There, they staged at least five assassinations between June of that year and April 2006, the Laredo Morning Times reads.

The Times mentions that according to authorities, Sinaloa hit men were also active in Laredo. Two hits, which were attributed to sicarios for the Chapos, were reported in 2005.

The Zetas outsourced their crimes in 2006 to prison gangs. Zetas contracted Texas Syndicate members to kidnap a victim, the Laredo Morning Times reads and according to a criminal complaint filed by Laredo police.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Janet Cooke: "Jimmy's World"

Janet Cooke was a reporter for the Washington Post when she won the Pulitzer Prize for her feature about a third-generation, 8-year-old heroin addict. Two days after receiving the award, Janet confessed that the story was fabricated. She later returned the Pulitzer Prize, and resigned from The Post.

Cooke had worked at the Post for two years before being offered a position as a “Weeklies” writer. To solidify her position, Cooke lied about her background. She claimed she had studied at the Sorbonne University, had a degree from Vassar College and received an award from her previous job at the Toledo Blade newspaper.

On Sept. 29, 1980, The Post published an article by Cooke titled “Jimmy’s World.” The article told the story of Jimmy, a young boy addicted to heroin living in a drug-dealing household. The story became an overnight controversy, and cultivated intense sympathy among readers including the mayor of Washington, D.C.

Urged on by social outrage, the mayor and other city officials organized a search for the boy. Suspicion arose about the story’s validity when the search was unsuccessful. Yet, to calm citizens, the mayor claimed that Jimmy was known to the city and receiving treatment.

Despite mounting suspicions about the story, The Post defended Cooke and her story. Assistant Managing Editor Bob Woodward later submitted “Jimmy’s World” for the Pulitzer Prize. Cooke won, and was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Feature Writing in April 1981.

When editors at the Toledo Blade read her biography from the Pulitzer, they noticed discrepancies. The two universities she had lied about, also noticed the discrepancies and phoned the Post. Further investigation exposed that Cooke’s had lied to The Post about her credentials. Pressured by her editors, Cooke confessed to everything.

Post publisher, Donald Graham, held a press conference two days after the prize was awarded and admitted the story was fabricated. A public apology appeared in the next day’s edition. Cooke then resigned from The Post and returned the Pulitzer Prize.

In 1982, she appeared on the Phil Donahue show to explain her situation. She claimed that the high-pressure environment had “corrupted her judgment.” She said sources had hinted at the existence of a child like Jimmy. However, when she was unable to find such a child, she fabricated the story to satisfy her editors.

In the journalism world, composite characters are acceptable. However, the audience must clearly be aware that the character is a composite and not an actual person. Typical characters are named something obvious like “John Doe,” or something average like "Mary" or "Joe" to clearly show that the character is an example. Readers will accept hypothetical illustrations if they deal with average-sounding people as examples.

Janet Cooke broke journalistic and ethical rules when she created the character Jimmy. She went into such detail and presented him in such a way that he went from being a composite character to a real boy. Cooke presented quotes in a manner that implied she had interviewed an actual person. She also falsified quotes from experts, and created quotes from Jimmy’s family.

Though Cooke claimed to have been over-worked, and simply trying to please her editors, what she did is unforgivable in the journalism world. Not only did she bring suspicion to the Washington Post, but also the rest of the journalism community. Each time readers are confronted with lapses in ethical judgment like Cooke’s, their trust in media waivers.

In Harm's Way: Covering Crime in Mexico.

Alfredo Jimenez Mota of El Imparcial in Hermosillo, missing since April 02, 2005; Dolores Guadalupe Garcia Escamilla, Crime reporter for Stereo 91 XHNOE in Nuevo Laredo, shot in the street, she died of her injuries on April 16, 2005;Raul Gibb Guerrero, editor of La Opinion, murdered on April 5, 2005, in Vera Cruz state.

In the raging war between drug cartels in Mexico, journalists are often the victim.

According to the L.A. Times, 45 journalists in Mexico have been murdered since 2000. Violence in the border cities of Nuevo Laredo and Ciduad Juarez, where drug cartels compete over the illegal drug market in the United States, is particularly gruesome.

In Nuevo Laredo in 2005, a police chief was shot at least 35 times, hours after taking office. His predeccessor had also been the victim of gang violence. That summer all 700 officers in the city's police force were fired on corruption charges.
Some Mexican media outlets, have stopped covering gang-related murders and stopped including bylines with the stories they do print.

In 2006,gunman armed with grenades and rifles barged into the El Manana newspaper in Nuevo Laredo and killed one reporter and left another paralyzed. According to Media Life, an El Manana reporter said, "It's not just the narco-wars we can't cover, the problem is that drug trafficking, affects all aspects of life, so we have to be careful when we cover the police, government, business-- everything. It doesn't matter if you work for TV, newspaper or radio, we all practice self-censorship now. It is the only way to survive."

Violence in the border cities has given Americans a window view into the inherent danger of reporting crime in Mexico and some American editors have decided to pull their reporters out of Mexico.

Though Mexican Drug Cartels have yet to kill an American reporter,in July of 2007, San Antonio Express-News reporter, Mariano Castillo was pulled out of the Laredo bureau when a source told him a drug cartel was planning to kill a U.S. reporter working in Laredo.

According to the Express-News, Castillo said, "With each byline on a narco story, I get a little more paranoid when I'm in Nuevo Laredo. The cartels have lookouts ... on many street corners. I'm always checking my mirror and taking a different road if I think someone is following me."

The Dallas Morning News also temporarily removed their reporters from Mexico following the threat, according to the Express-News.

Should reporters self-censor for fear of violent reprisal? If so are newspapers serving the public, or allowing a dangerous situation to intensify?

An official at Amnesty International wrote, "nearly every newspaper and news outlet in northern Mexico has instituted a policy of self-censorship in order to protect their reporters. As such, criminals perpetrating violence are able to increase violent activities with little chance of being exposed by government officials or the press, thus contributing to further human rights abuses."

Is it important that our fellow reporters in Mexico know they have our support North of the border? Or would American editors be asking too much of their reporters by keeping them in Mexico, when there are threats of violence?

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Eddie Adams: "Execution of a Viet Cong"

The picture above was taken by the late AP photographer, Eddie Adams, during the Vietnam War. It includes the South Vietnamese Colonel, Nguyan Ngoc Loan, shooting a bullet to the temple of a prisoner of war who was a Viet Cong captain. The picture made headlines around the United States hours after Adams turned in the photo. It was a image that would change the view of the war. It had a good impact for the photographer and the world and a bad impact for the shooter in the picture.

The picture, which was called “Execution of A Viet Cong", was taken Feb. 1, 1968, the second day of the communist’s Tet Offensive, or the North Vietnamese army attacks on Saigon and other parts of South Vietnam. It was most noted for turning Americans public opinion against the war.

The photo was shocking and horrific to many around the world. It showed the brutality of the Vietnam War. To Adams, it was an everyday thing. He had said in an interview that he was used to seeing people getting shot, soldiers putting guns against other peoples head. To Americans, this was something new and horrific.

According to the Society of Professional Journalists Code of Ethics, journalists should: seek the truth and report it. The execution showed war in it’s purist form. Adams wasn’t the only media there that day. NBC’s camera crew were there catching the aftermath of the execution.

They should also recognize that gathering and reporting information may cause harm or discomfort, according to the Code of Ethics.

In an article by Jonah Goldberg, “There Are Tears in My Eyes”, he explains that the photo that Adams took was referred to CNN as being ‘atrocious’ and a ‘ignoble deed’, and it ruined police chief Loan’s life.
“More to the point, it didn’t expand on our right to know,” said Goldberg. “It didn’t answer questions, or give us the story. It deceived. It gave no context. It confirmed the biases of the anti-war journalists, and they used it to further their agenda.”

Adams would later win a Pulitzer Prize for the execution photograph.
Eddie Adams Talk About The Saigon Execution Photo
from YouTube

The Execution from YouTube

Friday, November 21, 2008

Time magazine published a cover of O.J. Simpson in the June27, 1994 issue. Time illustrator, Mark Mahurin, digitally manipulated the photograph to make Simpson’s skin tone darker. Newsweek ran the same photo for their cover, but it was unaltered.

The conflicting values in this case are honesty v personal gain from improved level of work. These values cause one to examine which principles of journalism ethics were crossed.

Truthfulness of the photograph, how accurate was the photo and was the photo fair to the subject?

Is it ethical to manipulate a photograph for a private aesthetic reason, such as raising the level of your work?

Truthfulness in any published work is of utmost importance. To be untrue in your work, even once, reflects upon all of your past, present and future projects. In addition, untruths damage the media world around you, including your employer and peers.

Accuracy of any published work is also very important. It is a top priority of a journalist’s job to be accurate in all aspects of reporting. Inaccuracy can lead to massive misunderstanding by the audience, an audience which extends far and wide. The media plays a huge role in educating the public.

Fairness to the subject in question, as well as being fair to the reader is a result of whether or not the principles of truthfulness and accuracy were crossed. It is unfair to the subject in the photograph to be portrayed in a false light. It’s also unfair to the magazine’s audience because they are unknowingly being deceived.

At the time of publication, Simpson was on trial for the murder of his wife. The darkened image could lead the public to misinterpret the photograph and believe that he was guilty, because our society tends to look upon darker skinned black people as being of a lower social class, more criminally inclined and more likely to be guilty of a wrong-doing.

Value-based theory, deontological theory and teleological theory, the three philosophical foundations of ethics, apply to this case.

The value-based theory, based on care, is related to the fairness principle that was crossed. Care of the subject was not taken, evident by the blatant unfairness of the situation. Duty-based ethics is also called into question because it is the journalist’s duty to uphold all ethical aspects of his profession. To fail in this matter means to fail to accomplish a finished work. Finally, teleological theory involves the consequences of the questionable ethical problem. This theory was put to work because of the natural response society has to personality traits associated with certain races, and the misinterpretation of these stereo-types.

The illustrator in question crossed the ethical lines of his profession when he digitally manipulated a photograph, prior to publishing.

The public audience might view the altered photograph of Simpson and rightly presume the photo to be a true picture of him, to be an accurate photo of the subject within the context of the photographed environment and bearing these theories correct would result in fairness to both the subject and the public audience.

Katherine Abbott

Thursday, November 20, 2008

'Best of' clip, courtesy of msnbc.com

Highlights of 'predator' investigations
Highlights of 'predator' investigations

NBC's 'To Catch a Predator' raises concerns about ethics

By Andrew Hampel

NBC’s “To Catch a Predator,” which aired from November 2004 to July 2007, centered on finding an apprehending men who used the internet to speak to and schedule meetings with children under the age of consent.

Chris Hansen, who joined NBC’s “Now with Tom Brokaw and Katie Couric” in May 1993,” hosted “To Catch a Predator” and conducted 11 undercover operations with the help of Perverted-Justice. According to the Pervert-Justice Web site, the company intends “to root out people who use the internet to sexually abuse and prey upon children.” Additionally, law enforcement officers have participated in the undercover operations since the series third episode.

The undercover operations on “To Catch a Predator” raised a number of ethical concerns.
Brian Montopoli, former contributor for the “Columbia Journalism Review,” wrote on CBS News Public Eye blog that “To Catch a Predator”-related cases were vulnerable to the defense of entrapment. Montopoli’s remark came after a comment Stone Philips, an NBC news anchor, made in a blog post titled Why It’s Not Entrapment. Philips said the decoys Perverted-Justice employed to speak to suspected predators typically initiated the discussion of sex.

The series raised concern about conflicts of interest. According to an article by Paul Farhi on the Washington Post Web site, “Dateline” officials paid Pervert-Justice more than $100,000 to help conduct an operation in Greenville, Ohio, which included the arrest of 18 men. According to the article, Police officials deputized members of Perverted-Justice for the duration of the operation, which changed “To Catch a Predator” into a law enforcement operation (rather than an investigative report, which is how NBC originally described the show). The fee NBC officials paid Perverted-Justice also violated the Society of Professional Journalists Code of Ethics, which states that reporters should act independently and discourages the practice of paying for sources.

Jack Kelley-Situational Definition

Photo from PBS.org-Case Study: Jack Kelley and USA Today

After working at USA Today for 21 years, War Correspondent Jack Kelley resigned on Jan. 6, 2004 during an investigation of his work. An anonymous letter that was sent to the publication’s then executive editor, Brian Gallagher, sparked the investigation in May 2003. The staff first investigated Kelley’s 1999 story in which he wrote in-detail about a three-ring notebook where he reported to have seen information on ethnic cleansing in Kosovo. Without anyone to confirm the story, Kelley offered the investigation a translator’s name. However, it was discovered that the translator was hired by Kelley to read from a script- something they would find was not a new tactic for Kelley.

USA Today then launched an investigation of 720 stories by the five-time Pulitzer Prize nominee, and found more fabrication in Kelley’s works. They released a series of articles in March 2004 detailing their findings.

A final investigation resulted in the release of a 28-page report on April 22, 2004. It was a harsh analysis of the newspaper, and revealed Kelley’s frequent use of anonymous sources were often illegitimate. He had plagiarized quotes and other materials, lied in speeches for the newspaper and used false sources to cover his tracks when people questioned his work. 

On April 20, 2004, Karen Jurgensen, USA Today top editor, resigned because of her work with Kelley. Soon after her resignation, Hal Ritter, managing editor, also resigned and Brian Gallagher, executive editor, stepped down to an editorial page editor.

USA Today reported on their own story through statements, the final investigation report and retractions. Although it was ultimately Kelley who lied and stole material, the newspaper has an obligation to the public to make sure its writers are telling the truth. The 2004 investigation report said news editors and other USA Today staff members were not as concerned about reporters getting the facts right as they were with producing better stories than their competitors. From the 2004 report, Kelley said when USA Today’s policy changed in 1995 to allow confidential sources to compete with other media, he felt pressured to perform at a higher level. That policy made it easier for him to get away with using false anonymous sources, embellishing portions or complete situations and lifting quotes from other major publications without editors noticing.  

The 2004 final report on the Kelley investigation pointed out USA Today’s biggest mistakes:

 1. Kelley’s editors and co-workers had heard questions about his work from other reports and outside sources as far back as 1991, yet an investigation of his work was not addressed until the anonymous letter.

  2. A “virus of fear” was present in the news section of the paper, preventing staff from complaining about Kelley.

3. Kelley was credited as the paper’s “star,” and his friendships with USA Today executives helped keep his lies unknown and his name unquestionable.

4. The editor’s did not follow their guidelines and policies before printing Kelley’s work. The editor’s trust in Kelley let him abuse the use of anonymous sources, and without following their policies they have caused harm to the paper.

5. The report suggests USA Today’s lines of communication through sections and levels of employment were broken, contributing to the continued publication of Kelley’s false work.

6. The previous investigations were not conclusive in revealing Kelley’s fraud because it was done to prove he had done nothing wrong. However, this report says otherwise.

The conflicting values USA Today dealt with included telling the truth, trusting its staff, making money, accepting criticism and increasing its audience.

Is it accurate for USA Today to relax its fact and source verification methods in order to compete with other publications for the best stories?

USA Today’s value of telling the truth was pushed aside while the staff struggled to compete for the best stories. USA Today’s ethical policy to be accountable was undermined by the trust of their staff, especially their “star,” Jack Kelley. The newspaper’s repeated refusal to correctly address the outside and inside criticism of Kelley’s work ultimately damaged the newspaper, each reporter, journalists everywhere and their audience.

Example of Kelley Reporting (from You Tube)

II. Jack Kelly -- Analysis of the Situation

The only positive aspect that Jack Kelley had going for him was to sustain his career. His actions were mostly negative. The exact reason for him fabricating stories is unknown as he has never publicly stated a reason to justify why he opted to single handily tarnish his career. However, the fact that he was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize a total of five times might be a good reason that he elected to keep on writing stories that are now in hindsight seen as contrite. He was also seen as the star of the newsroom by always appearing as one of the faces of USA Today. So maybe his reasoning to act the way he did was to uphold this star status.

USA Today’s reputation as well as editors and himself were affected by his bad decisions. Staffers at USA Today that include Karen Jurgensen Brian Gallagher, Hal Ritter and Jack Kelley all resigned as a result of Kelley’s fraudulent reporting.

Staff members were in the wrong, too, as an extensive report on Kelley indicates that some of them were skeptical of his writing. The fact that no one stood up to express these concerns is wrong as well. Newsrooms should be open to addressing any concern that might arise, particularly if someone is even at the least bit suspicious of something or someone. The staffers not reporting this to a higher authority is amiss to their journalistic values.


Mayors Romance

In July 2007, Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa issued a statement that he and his wife of 2o years were separating. Later that day, on the evening news, Telemundo television anchor, Mirthala Salinas, delivered the story to her Spanish-language viewers.

What Salinas forget to mention was that she was the other woman in Villaraigosa’s life. Later, both confirmed the affair in separate statements.

“I have a relationship with Ms. Salinas, and I take full responsibility for my actions,” said Villaraigosa.

“I first got to know the mayor at professional level,” Salinas said. “The current relationship grew out of our existing relationship.”

Rumors of the relationship had surfaced in late January via blogs commenting on the secret lovers. Pictures showed up of the two together as well as a rumor that Salinas was pregnant, which Villaraigosa denied in his statement about the affair.

In an interesting twist, this is not the first time either one of the public figures have been involved in affairs. Villaraigosa has two daughters out of wed lock which led to his wife filing for divorce in 1994, but later the couple reconciled.

Salina’s was involved in a relationship with another politician in 2003, Assembly Speaker Fabian Nunez, who was a longtime friend and ally of Villaraigosa. At the time, the revelation raised questions about Salinas’ ethical standards.

Many people feel she again compromised her journalistic integrity to sleep with Villaraigosa on whom she was reporting. Salinas has been chastised for continuing covering the mayor throughout their affair.

“There really is no question that this is unacceptable,” said Kelly McBride, ethics group leader at the Poynter institute in St. Petersburg, Fla. “You can’t sleep with your sources. This one sort of transcends the boundaries in any ethical newsroom.”

Both Telemundo executives and Villaraigosa stood up for Salinas and her journalistic integrity.

“Mirthala Salinas is one of our most respected reporters and a great professional,” said Manual Abud, Telemundo’s general manager in Las Angeles. “Telemundo is fully committed to journalistic excellence. Every day we strive for the highest standards of journalistic ethics and make every effort to protect our objectivity and possible conflicts of interest.”

It has not clear how long Telemundo knew about the affair, but others in the journalism world have criticized the Spanish-language station for allowing Salinas to break the news of Villaraigosa’s separation.

“I think Telemundo is going to have to really take a hard look at this,” said Laura Castaneda, an associate professor of professional practice for the USC Annenberg School of Journalism. “It doesn’t reflect well. Telemundo has no excuse.”

After Salinas’s suspension in August, she was transferred out of Las Angeles to the Telemundo Inland Empire news bureau to be paired with Mary Parks at KNBC-TV.

III. Our decision on Jack Kelley's actions

Jack Kelley was in the wrong. He broke the cardinal rule of being an ethical journalist. He lied, he didn't didn't seek truth and as a matter of fact he didn't seek anything considering he made his stories up.

He lifted quotes without attribution. He plagiarized, embellished and at times fabricated stories on foreign-terrorism. He also produced scripts and gave them to associates in the event that he got caught so they could confirm his sources under false pretenses.

these actions go directly against the SPJ code of ethics. Even though he gained national recognition and Pulitzer prize nominations, he failed to act as an ethical journalist. Every reporter should put truth first and self second. his decisions ultimately cost him his career and reputation.

We also think that USA Today was partially in the wrong for not checking his sources. they to sought to be recognized and failed to act as a reputable media source. Although deadlines may have been a factor, even an after the fact checking of sources could have stopped this situation before it snowballed into the situation it did. Although USA is the nations largest newspaper, the situation could have cost them all more than just a damaged reputation had it gone any further than it did.

Our decision came about because as journalists, we are taught from the beginning not to fabricate stories, or plagiarize. Truth is the basis of journalism.

The ethical question at hand: Is photo tampering, even without changing the context of a situation acceptable in journalism?

The Facts: Brian Walski, a staff photographer and 30-year news veteran combined two images that were taken during the Iraq conflict involving a British solider and Iraqi civilians. Brian Walski was fired promptly by the LA Times for this and has yet to find prominent work in photojournalism since.

Analysis: The two photographs in question were not taken on separate days, or even relatively separate times. His composite image in no way threw the concept of what was taking place out the window. It was simply a choice of aesthetic composition of an image. This being considered, was Brian's choice unethical. He was only trying to deliver a powerful image, not attempting to deceive anyone.

The issues at hand defintely appear to be truth vs livelihood. Brian's livelihood is based in his product; the photos he takes. If he cannot produce powerful images, he will not be kept on staff and therefore have to look for another job. On the other side of the coin is his code of ethics as a journalim, the most important being "Tell the Truth"

Bottom Line: While Walski in the end chooses one over the other, I think we can all agree that he made a poor choice between ethical dillemas. His duty to tell the truth as a journalist should come before anything else, especially when concerning his livlihood. After all it was this choice that caused him to lose his job and never again be able to return to this job on a professional level. Even though this image is not one of deception, it brings into question his entire career as a photojournalist and severly compromises his integrity.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

The Ethics Assignment

Mass communication professionals face ethical dilemmas daily. What may be a breech of ethics in one mass communication profession, may be acceptable in another. For example, advertising professionals may easily accept free tickets from a client, but a journalist could be fired for accepting a gift.

Find a journalist whose ethical breech made news, or you may choose a journalist whose stand on ethics caused hardship but he or she stood fast. We can learn from the mistakes of others and be emboldened by the courage of those who take a stand.

What is required:
Post a synopsis of your material on this class Ethics Blog.
You may post text, photos, whatever fits your project.
Remember: This is a public site. Respect copyright. Your material may be read by others. You will be evaluated on the quality of your writing and material submitted.
This should help you focus on what to share with us during your class presentation.
It will be helpful to refer to professional codes of ethics during your presentation, such as the SPJ Code of Ethics.

Presentation to the class
Present using the blog as a visual. You may also have handouts.
Tell us about the ethics issue and engage the class in discussion on the topic.

You may choose to work as a group on this. The same information is required whether done individually or as a group. You post to the class ethics blog as a group, which means one person may post and others comment or each of you may post pieces of the project, but each person must have a presence on the blog. If done as a group, I will expect you to excel in engaging the class and make a dynamic presentation. Each member of the group will be expected to participate fully.
You may have up to 3 group members.