Since When is the Truth Not Good Enough?

Blog Three by Alyssa Gauss

Photo provided by                                                           

           Throughout the course of history, advances in technology have usually been welcomed into our lives.  They generally make our lives easier and more enjoyable.  Most of these advances come with some kind of price, however.

           Advances in photography, for instance, have allowed significant progress in the world of journalism.  With photography came an increased sense of truth behind the words and a much more effective look into the stories and events.  People were not just told about an event, they were now able to see it with their own eyes and assess that image for themselves.

           The troubling fact is, however, that technology has now become so advanced that it is causing us to lose sight of the original purpose of Photojournalism.  Computer programs like Adobe Photoshop are so sophisticated that a photo can be edited and not one consumer will be conscious of the change.  Objects and people can be added and taken out of images with ease, models can been made to look virtually flawless and the entire meaning of a photo can be changed by simply altering colors. The establishment that once gave modern journalism such a great foundation is now leading it to accrue a bad reputation for deceiving the public.  

           According to Carolynne Burkholder, writer of “Online Journalism Ethics: Photojournalism”, photo editing is turning into a very common practice even if it is seen as a breach in the ethics codes of journalism.  According to Burkholder, many newspapers have a standing policy to never publish altered photos, but it has not become a completely universal practice yet.

           So here come the ultimate questions: how much editing is too much editing? Is there a fine line between simply enhancing a photo versus blatantly changing it?  Is altering photos for magazines more acceptable than altering for news stories? Is altering in any way completely unethical?  These are important questions to ask when you consider how much your daily news affects the way you see the world.  It might be a good idea to find out what your news source’s policy is.

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6 Responses to Since When is the Truth Not Good Enough?

  1. piamarani says:

    Great post. I think there is a fine line between touching up and completely changing an image. To be honest, I can’t even think of a logical answer to the problem. In terms of photojournalism, I don’t think anything should be altered because one little edit can change the whole story. But you don’t want to put a photo in an ad that isn’t perfect. But how can we place restrictions on some and not on others? Interesting to think about…. Thanks!

  2. jldruck says:

    I have learned in photojournalism courses and my ethics class that editing photographs is completely unethical and I agree. In Journalism, we are to tell the truth, therefore editing a photo to possibly depict a more moving situation or make a matter worse is subject to scrutiny.

    The only instance I can see a need for photo editing is to possibly blur inappropriate nudity or maybe products in part of advertisement.

  3. Christopher Naslund says:

    I think that any altering of photo’s for use to persuade someone into thinking something else, is completely unethical. But if they are cleaning up a pimple or some red eye or removing any imperfection for personal use is okay in my book.

  4. Definitely a tricky topic, i agree with the response above editing a photo for journalisme purposes is wrong. But what about advertisements, or magazines?
    I read the the cover of the movie “The Dutchess” with Kierra Knightly was digitally enhanced to make her boobs bigger in her victorian style dress. She obviously noticed and made them change it back. Good post.

  5. victoriarobillard88 says:

    This reminds me of the recent commercial when a mom is taking Christmas photos of her family and must subsitute the face of each one from another photograph. Editing takes away the authenticiy of the photo. It might as well be computer generated. I disagree witb manipulating a photo to the point that it does not represent what it originally did.

  6. sbon21 says:

    I really loved this post, and I think it brings up a good question about how much editing is too much. What ever happened to people taking great pictures with their cameras that were used in magazines and newspapers? Well we live in a culture today that strives for perfection in all aspects of live, especially photography. I can relate this to the advertising today, and how you cant open a magazine with untouched photos. Every single model and celebrity are almost retouched to the point of nonrecognition. When will this stop and people start seeing things for what they really are, instead of what they can be.

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