Altered photo of U.S. House women draws criticism

[From iMediaEthics; a 1:02 minute video of Rep. Pelosi defending the altered photo is available on YouTube]

[Image: See the original group of politicians (left) compared with the doctored version released by Pelosi’s office. In red circle, see the added politicians. (Credit: WizbangBlog, Nancy Pelosi’s Flickr, screenshots)]

NPPA, White House Photographers Criticize Doctored Photo by Nancy Pelosi’s office

By: Sydney Smith
January 07, 2013

Nancy Pelosi’s office doctored a photograph picturing the Democratic women in Congress but argues it’s OK because it shows all of the women, even if they weren’t all there for the photo.

A comparison of Pelosi’s version of the photo with another photo shows the phony picture adds four people, including Debbie Wasserman Schultz, and repositions and alters some of the people who were in the photo, photography industry non-profit organization the National Press Photographers Association reported. [snip]

In a statement the National Press Photographers Association and the White House News Photographers Association criticized the Photoshop, noting that “the hand-out represents an example of the dangers in using a manipulated official photograph, thus undermining the public’s trust in visual images,” Mediaite noted.

WHNPA President Ron Sachs called the photo “another recent example of why handout photos are often not a fair and accurate substitute for true, open, and independent media coverage,” in the “NPPA/WHNPA” statement.  He added:

“Elected officials are using Flickr and other social media sites more often in order to circumvent the watchful eye of the independent news media, which continues to be a very disturbing trend. The ‘doctored’ photo is not a true representation of the moment, which calls into question the integrity of photos released by the government.”

Photojournalism ethics issues aside, Pelosi argued the photo was “an accurate historical record of who the Democractic women in Congress are,” Fox News reported.  Pelosi’s Flickr version of the photo, posted to the account “SpeakerPelosi,” doesn’t disclose that it has been doctored.

Poynter quoted its senior faculty for visual journalism Kenny Irby calling the doctored photo “more like Russian propaganda.” In a separate post, Poynter noted that two New Hampshire websites published the Pelosi-version of the photo.

When iMediaEthics looked at both Patch websites on Jan. 6, the photo was used without disclosure of the doctoring. Check out the Salem, New Hampshire Patch  and Exeter, New Hampshire Patch website, both using the photo in coverage of two New Hampshire politicians being “sworn in to Congress.”

iMediaEthics has written to both Patch sites asking if they knew the photo was doctored and if it will add a disclosure of the Photoshop. We will update with any responses.

As Poynter and Fox News reminded, White House rolled out a policy against staging photos for the press a year and a half ago. iMediaEthics wrote in 2011 when the the standard was decided, after President Barack Obama reenacted for photographers the beginning of his speech announcing Osama bin Laden’s death.


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