Brian Walski and the origin of the scandal

October 31, 2009

Brian Walski was born in Illinois, USA, in 1958. He grew up in Chicago and studied Journalism at Northern Illinois University. He has worked as a photographer since 1980 starting his career at the Albuquerque Journal, Patriot-Ledger in Quincy, MA, and the Boston Herald. He spent 12 years on staff at the Herald until he joined the Los Angeles Times in September, 1998. During his career he has covered everything from local news to the Gulf War, famine in Africa, Northern Ireland, the conflict in Kashmir and the crisis in the Balkans. (Wikipedia, Brian Walski) Walski was awarded the California Press Photographers Association’s 2001  Photographer of the Year.

Brian Walski was in early 2003 working in Basra on the coverage of the Iraq War on behalf of the Los Angeles Times newspaper. On the 31st of March that year, the newspaper, along with other papers from the Tribune News Corporation, published the striking photograph that Walski had provided from southern Iraq the previous day. After publication, an Iraqi member of staff at the Hartford Courant (from the same company as the LA Times) noticed, while searching the photo for relatives, that some faces in the background were duplicated. The picture had in fact been altered. The staffer notified the editors of the newspaper who immediately contacted Walski’s superiors at the LA Times. After admitting that the picture was a creation from two separate photographs, Brian Walski was dismissed from the paper, as digital composites and distortion of original photographs are considered strongly unethical within news organizations.

This brings up a few of questions: Where is the line drawn between ethical and unethical? Is there a code of ethics within the photojournalism industry? How radically were the pictures altered for the reaction to be so strong?

 

Walski’s biography was sourced from Wikipedia (quotes in italics):

Wikipedia (last modified on 9 February 2009 at 18:30). Brian Walski. [online] Wikimedia Foundation Inc. Available from: <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brian_Walski> [Accessed 22 October 2009].

The Wikipedia material was complemented with information from the following website (first few paragraphs):

Irby, Kenneth (2 April 2003 at 12:00 am). L.A. Times Photographer Fired Over Altered Image. [online] Poynter Online. Poynter Center for the Study of Ethics and American Institutions. Available from: <http://www.poynter.org/content/content_view.asp?id=28082> [Accessed on 28 October 2009].

More information from this website will be used in future posts.

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