Jenni Mäenpää M.Soc.Sc PhD student Journalism Research and by mercy2beans113


									Jenni Mäenpää
M.Soc.Sc / PhD student
Journalism Research and Development Centre
Department of Journalism and Mass Communication
University of Tampere, Finland

Editing and manipulating

Digital photo-editing in Finnish newspapers and magazines


In the past decade photojournalistic production practises have successively gone digital, but it is
only in the past few years this fundamental change has completely permeated the newsroom. This
change has stirred a heated discussion in the field of journalism around digital photo editing. In
some cases, malpractices of digital editing of news images have led to photojournalists being fired,
and some news agencies have also issued new professional codes for photo editing, adapted to meet
the new digital editing techniques. For example, recent Reuters’ guidelines emphasize that “no
additions or deletions to the subject matter of the original image” nor “excessive lightening,
darkening or blurring of the image” are allowed.

This book presents the results of an online survey that was carried out in Finland in 2007 among
editorial staff among different types of newspapers. The survey involved a representative sample of
respondents including photojournalists, photo-editors and other newsroom staff who work with
images. By showing example sets of unaltered and altered images, the survey mapped answers to
such questions as: what are the limits of editing, what kinds of alterations in images should be
announced to readers, and what effects may digital editing have on the alleged status of the
“objective image”?

The results show that all categories of staff are generally restrictive of making computer alterations
of photographs used in a news context. However, large differences were found both between
different types of images, and also what was considered ‘altering’ an image, and what was only
seen as normal editing in order to prepare in for publication. The acceptance of alterations was
much higher for feature images and photographic illustrations than for news and reportage images.
Additionally, a common rule-of-thumb that respondents referred to was the dark-room principle;
editing that was commonly accepted in the dark-room (e.g. cropping or changing brightness or
contrast) was also acceptable when done in the computer. The results indicate that the so-called
objectivity of the journalistic image seems to be an ideal that is deeply intertwined with journalistic
work routines. In the one hand, journalistic photographs are documents: they are evidence of eye-
witnessing. On the other hand however, professionals admit that photographs are always already
edited, as soon as the topic, angle and the composition are chosen. Because of this tension,
especially in news journalism, photojournalists have created norms, both expressed and
unexpressed, which they use to try to approach and control the dilemma. In many cases, where new
digital possibilities have arrived in newsrooms and written ethical guidelines have become out-
ofdate, photojournalists pragmatically form a new ethics of editing, in part based on previous rules
and in part based on journalistic common sense, in order to safeguard the status of the
photojournalistic image in a time when it is increasingly challenged from a number of different

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