Thursday, November 20, 2008
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.