Reactions and criticism

November 4, 2009

When the alteration of the picture was first noticed, the editors were shocked. Thom McGuire, the Hartford Courant‘s Assistant Managing Editor for Photography & Graphics, had not noticed the manipulation at first and therefore sent the picture off for publishing. After being alerted about the composite and analysing the picture in detail, he contacted Colin Crawford, Director of Photography for the Los Angeles Times, whose immediate reaction was one of “shock and disbelief” (Irby, 2003). He said “No way! There must be a technical, digital… satellite glitch explanation” (ibid).

When he finally reached Walski over the phone he couldn’t accept what the photographer admitted to him: “Give me an excuse. Tell me it was a satellite transmission problem. Say something,” Crawford told Walski (Walker, 2003). However, the latter would not make up any excuses. Following this, the scandal flared up.


Of course, a lot of reactions could be expected. “Most have been very nice and supportive and kind. I haven’t heard from everybody. A lot of them are just shocked,” says Walski (Walker, 2003). Although many seemed to react with sympathy, they could not agree with what he did. The most affected by this event were his colleagues and other people directly involved.

“What Brian did is totally unacceptable and he violated our trust with our readers,” Crawford says. “We do not for a moment underestimate what he has witnessed and experienced. We don’t feel good about doing this, but the integrity of our organization is essential. If our readers can’t count on honesty from us, I don’t know what we have left.” (Irby, 2003). McGuire said a few days after the incident that he still felt “sick to my stomach over the whole episode.” (Ibid).


A fair amount of photographers felt somewhat insulted by the event, in particular photojournalists as they believe their credibility has been tarnished by the scandal. “There is not ever a good time for such manipulation, but this is the worst time. What really differentiates us from other photographers and media is our credibility. We have a history of getting it right, accurately… Our credibility is all that we have,” says Vincent LaForet, “For me there is no acceptable explanation.” (Ibid)

Others agree, such as Betty Unisden, photographer for the Seattle Times, who remarks “Unfortunately the stain of this photograph will harm journalists collectively.” (Ibid; the photographer’s name was however, in the source, misspelt. Correct spelling was found in a book by Julianne H. Newton, see references.)

Peter Souza, Chicago Tribune (and former White House) photographer, adds his belief that “our entire profession is now under a cloud of suspicion regarding our credibility”. (Van Riper, 2003)


As we can see, the incident had a big impact on the photojournalism industry. What happened next? How did Walski feel about the event? Did it also have a big impact on the public?




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: <> [Accessed on 28 October 2009].


Walker, David (7 May 2003). Brian Walski Discusses his Doctored Photo, Photo District News. [online], Inc. Available from: <> [Accessed on 28 October 2009]


Van Riper, Frank (9 April 2003). Manipulating Truth, Losing Credibility. [online] Washington Post. Available from: <> [Accessed on 22 October 2009]


Newton, Julianne Hickerson (2001). The Burden of Visual Truth: The Role of Photojournalism in Mediating Reality, p. 80. New Jersey: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates. [Accessed on 3 November 2009]

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