Code of Ethics

November 7, 2009

“Law is what society decides people have to do. Ethics is deciding what is right to do.” (Newton, 2001; p. 185)

 

Photojournalism is generally a “descriptive term for reporting visual information”, its core function to “record and convey events truthfully and visually”. (Newton, 2001; p. 5)

Thus, photojournalists have a duty to portray situations accurately, as clearly as possible, no matter the artistic quality of the picture. That is the main difference between an art photographer and a news photographer.

 

Photojournalists should maintain the right of freedom of expression and the right to take pictures while still honouring their responsibilities. Julianne H. Newton outlines the key photojournalism ethics, the photographer’s (as well as the editor’s) responsibilities:

  • To respect human beings.
  • To report clearly what they see.
  • To be fair, accurate, and honest.
  • To use images fairly.” (Newton, 2001; p. 185)

 

The National Press Photographer’s Association, an American organisation founded in 1946, “is dedicated to the advancement of visual journalism, its creation, practice, training, editing and distribution, in all news media and works to promote its role as a vital public service”. (NPPA, 2009)

On their website there is a page devoted to a Code of Ethics for photojournalism.

 

NPPA Code of Ethics

 

The only responsibility relating to Brian Walski’s situation is number 6: “Editing should maintain the integrity of the photographic images’ content and context. Do not manipulate images or add or alter sound in any way that can mislead viewers or misrepresent subjects.” (NPPA, 2009)

This brings up the question: Did Walski alter the message of the photographs by putting them together? Did his creation misrepresent the situation captured?

 

Brian Walski’s dismissal was not in accordance with any laws. There are no laws concerning photojournalism, only ethics. The photographer’s redundancy was completely up to the L.A. Times, it was at their discretion alone. Again we can ask ourselves: was the outcome reasonably justifiable? Did the Times have an ulterior motive?

 

 

Newton, Julianne Hickerson (2001). The Burden of Visual Truth: The Role of Photojournalism in Mediating Reality, p. 5, p. 185. New Jersey: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates. [Accessed on 3 November 2009].

NPPA (2009). History. [online] National Press Photographers Association. Available from: <http://www.nppa.org/about_us/history/> [Accessed on 30th October 2009].

NPPA (2009). Mission Statement. [online] National Press Photographers Association. Available from: <http://www.nppa.org/about_us/> [Accessed on 30th October 2009].

NPPA (2009). NPPA Code of Ethics. [online] National Press Photographers Association. Available from: <http://www.nppa.org/professional_development/business_practices/ethics.html> [Accessed on 30th October 2009].

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One Response to “Code of Ethics”

  1. As president of the National Press Photographers Association, I must take exception with your research and conclusions. You have a flawed premise in dealing with the manipulation done by Brian Walski.

    The NPPA code of ethics clearly states “Editing should maintain the integrity of the photographic images’ content and context. Do not manipulate images or add or alter sound in any way that can mislead viewers or misrepresent subjects.”

    Notice the word manipulation. It is a critical part of our code of ethics. A photojournalist who ascribes to the code does not manipulate an image that would be published as news. Any image that is manipulated should be labeled as a photo illustration.

    Walski manipulated his final image by combining two images and he digitally created a new image that was NOT reality. The image he created never existed. It is a composite, not a moment in time. He created his own reality, not what actually happened.

    As an academic, I am concerned about your conclusions based upon our code of ethics which you have misrepresented.

    Dr. Bob Carey
    NPPA President

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