Wednesday, September 18, 2013


Casey Weinfurtner

You could look good… or you could look great.

When faced with photo dilemmas, our most standard “quick fix” rests in just the click of one word: “Edit.” There you are. You can say goodbye to that horrible red eye, and watch as various contrasts and filters refurbish the world around you into a more visually stimulating scene. Can you even imagine a world where the option of “No filter” actually existed and all that was to be exposed was the truth?

Photo editing these days has found a way of making itself far more common and accessible. In other words, it’s become a lot easier to make you and your surroundings look better. Not only is photo editing highly popular within social media outlets such as Instagram or Twitter, the ability to transform a photograph has taken a popular professional turn as well. Thanks to other photo editing sources like Photoshop, journalists are now left face to face with an immense temptation that can very easily tamper with ethical values.

In most cases, the average individual’s choice to edit a photograph of themselves, family, friends, etc. holds very unsubstantial value in misrepresenting what’s real. After all, that filtered tan is considered a lie isn’t it? But photojournalists aren’t the average individuals. With each photograph they publish, the identity of not just themselves within their journalistic career, but the identity of their news source and the individuals they are showcasing in their photos are suddenly dependent on journalistic fairness. The stakeholder is not just taking the photo, but within.

As a population, we want and crave to see the truth. As journalists, we should desperately strive to fulfill that need by presenting the truth in its highest ethical form. We hold a responsibility to display our audience the best visual that reflects our journalistic message.

It is a common saying that “a picture is worth a thousand words.” But a thousand more will follow if images are tampered with and misrepresent a true event journalists choose to publish for personal success. Manipulating elements of a photo has become so attainable to photo journalists that their own personal choice to withdraw from major photo edits is a directly linking their own personal code of ethics.

It is not much to debate that society often feeds on construed photos misrepresenting events or lives of individuals. If we take a little trip to Hollywood, false images of the famous bombard our newsstands daily and can easily deceive the public’s perception.

The widely received childhood star Amanda Bynes has gained much attention as of late, due to the various photographs indicating the star has now fallen off the deep end. It didn’t take long for the self-posted pictures of Bynes on her Twitter account to escalate into allegedly altered images she was quick to react to. Bynes may have already gained her widespread fan base from her own personal photos, but the potential "Photoshop" versions published by photographers continued the spread of negativity like wildfire. The photo captured Bynes at a New York party doing drugs, though she immediately made a very vocal announcement over Twitter claiming the photo was absolutely not her. 

                                                   Photograph courtesy of Latino Post

Though the hilarious and innocent child-star’s insanity photographed in her very public collapse may seem detrimental to some, there are credible news sources whose deceit of the public have suffered more long-standing effects.

The Toledo Blade experienced it’s own Amanda Bynes spiral downhill when one of their accountable award-winning photographers, Allan Detrich, was found responsible for dramatically altering a photograph of Bluffton University’s baseball team after the tragic loss of five of their players in a recent bus accident. The film reviews revealed Detrich’s intentional displacement of many outdoor features but, most importantly, the discovery of the accidental and unedited mysterious legs behind the fence banners that belonged to another reporter.

                                     Photo courtesy of Four and Six

You can certainly shove Detrich’s ethical values right out the door and tell his own legs to follow right after it.

The Blade scandal is one example that doesn’t just raise doubt within the newspaper itself, but also for the entire field of photojournalism. How can the public expect to visually see the truth when our professionals are manipulating images for us? Is technology advancement correlating with a decline in journalistic ethical codes? How can the public separate specific events and individuals from an overview of journalistic credibility?

As an aspiring Public relations professional, it is my own personal duty to represent those who are a representation of the truth. Our personal ethics are intertwined with the codes for those we work for and those working alongside us. Regardless of which track of journalism we pursue it is our duty to provide the public with an assurance of our credibility. If we don’t want those in our field not honoring the codes to take reign over those working toward the right goals, those who value the meaning of ethics need to continue to provide good work.

A talented professional can send visual messages through their truthful images. A talented writer can form the right words to bring forth public coverage actually said and done. Without a credible source, our identity and duty as a journalist is tarnished.

For those who seek it, why filter the truth? 

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