Saturday, December 03, 2005

Abstract for Digital Dilemmas: The ethics of digital photo manipulation in photojournalism


Digital Dilemmas:
The ethics of digital photo manipulation in photojournalism

With advancements in technology, photography has evolved from the darkroom to the computer lab. Most photojournalists now use digital cameras instead of film, thus making photo editing programs such as Photoshop a must in the industry. These programs can do everything a darkroom technician can do—lighten or darken an image, add detail to shadows, crop an image, etc.—but these programs also make difficult or impossible darkroom tasks easy. The abuse of this technology has resulted in some manipulated and faked images being passed off by the media as truth.

There is much debate in the photojournalism community about the ethics of digital manipulation. This paper explored the issues of digital manipulation ethics in the current literature. Although there is no one universal code of ethics on this topic, the consensus seems to be that reality should not be altered and the public should not be deceived. Breaches in this ethical stance are creating a crisis in the media where photographs are losing their credibility.
Several examples of published manipulated photos and their consequences are explored.

Besides the literature’s recommendations of labeling every photograph that has been manipulated in any way, this paper offers some solutions to the crisis. One is, if students begin their education working with film in a darkroom they may understand traditional image correcting and how those translate to the digital world. Also, a better dialogue between photographers and photo editors would lead to less deception. And lastly, if the media concentrated on showing the public truth rather than drama, fewer images would need to be manipulated in the first place.

Overall, the paper has found that there is indeed a crisis in the media because of digital photo manipulation. Professional photojournalists and editors who have been taught that faking an image is unethical are not above manipulating a photograph to get ahead in the business. In a time when lies seem to be prevalent in the government, the internet, and the media, the media needs to take control and rectify the digital manipulation situation before all credibility is lost.

Click here to read the paper

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Each One Teach One

Online Idenity Theft

Online identity theft is a growing problem in the United States. This problem has been perpetuated by the internet. Besides the common fears of having a credit card numbers stolen, warns that identity thieves “may get identification such as a driver's license issued with their picture, in your name.” Or, “they may give your name to the police during an arrest. If they don't show up for their court date, a warrant for arrest is issued in your name.” These are only a few scary possibilities that can occur when one’s identity information is stolen.
According to the Javelin/Better Business Bureau report “Within the last twelve months, 9.3 million Americans were victims of identity theft.” Surprisingly, this report states that only 11.6% of identity theft cases occurred online. Most identity theft still occurs through stolen wallets and paper mail. The Javelin/Better Business Bureau report actually recommends more internet use to help protect against identity theft. It suggests that people pay bills online and cancel their paper bills.
However, the FDIC released a report in 2004 stating “recent studies indicate that unauthorized access to checking accounts is the fastest growing form of identity theft . . . almost 2 million U.S. adult Internet users experienced this fraud during the 12 months ending April 2004.” Therefore, even though only a small percentage of identity theft occurs online, it is still a very significant number.
There are several ways to steal someone’s identity information through the internet. According to the FDIC report, “spoof” or “phishing” e-mails are the most common way to obtain the information. These e-mails pretend to be from banks or companies and ask the user to respond or follow a link and enter personal information.
According to an article on, “Nearly one out of three Internet users was unable to tell the difference between fraudulent e-mails designed to steal their identities and legitimate corporate e-mail.” What may be worse is, according to the same article, “An e-mail message from the Federal Trade Commission was dismissed as a fraud by 50 percent of the consumers.”
Therefore, not only is trust in online banking and shopping beginning to dwindle, but trust in e-mail is plummeting as well. What does this mean for global communication? The FDIC says “many experts believe that electronic fraud, especially account hijacking, will have the effect of slowing the growth of online banking and commerce.”

My biggest fears about online identity theft:
1. E-mail will begin to disappear as people mistrust it more.
2. Online banking will become too risky.
3. Online shopping will become too risky.
4. Any education given to people about how to identify phishing e-mails will available to identity thieves as well. The fake e-mails will continue to evolve and be impossible to distinguish.
5. People will become too afraid to use the internet at all.

My ideas for solutions:
1. Increase identity theft monitoring of the internet by the FBI.
2. Create better e-mail filters to prevent the phishing e-mails from ever reaching the user.
3. Increase the penalty for identity theft. Maybe it will deter criminals?

Some useful websites about this topic:

The Federal Trade Commission’s website about identity theft is a good source of information. The introduction to this site describes it best: “It provides detailed information to help you protect yourself from identity theft, and the steps to take if
it occurs. It is also a comprehensive reference center – for consumers, businesses, law enforcement, and the media –with access to specific laws, contact information, and resources from state and federal government agencies.” The site has a lot of good details and statistics. It is also a good resource for victims of identity theft and even gives a link to report a crime. The links for detailed reports from the FBI, etc. and outlines of the laws are very helpful. I believe this site is reliable because it is run by The Federal Trade Commission and it has up-to-date information.

The Privacy Rights Clearinghouse is another good web source. This site also gives information about identity theft, how to avoid it, and what to do if you become a victim. The fact sheets on this site are nice, easy to read ways to find information. The unique thing about this site are the quizzes. Users can take quizzes to see what their identity theft IQ is. Also, there are many links to specific identity theft stories and cases. The site seems to be reliable. The sources they post are up-to-date.

The Stop Identity Theft Network is another good web source. This site, run by the state of Georgia, gives information about identity theft prevention, help for victims, help for businesses, and help for law enforcement. It also allows a user to file a complaint. This site is geared mostly toward practical information rather than research statistics. All the information seems to be timely and reliable. The fact that it is sponsored by a state government adds to its reliability.

The University of Michigan’s
identity theft website is also a good source. This site is geared towards students at the university and how they can protect themselves. However, it has a lot of good information that can be applied to anyone. The site offers advice on how to protect yourself, what to do if you’re a victim, and university security. The “How to recognize a phishing scam” article gives some great details. The reliability of this site is high because it is part of the official university site.

The Internet Fraud Complaint Center is another great web source. The IFCC “is a partnership between the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and the National White Collar Crime Center (NW3C).” This site offers people a way to file a complaint about internet fraud. It also gives fraud statistics and tips on how to protect yourself. A great source of information is the IFCC warning page where any new warnings about internet fraud is posted. This site is reliable because it is connected with the FBI and NW3C. All the information is detailed and up-to-date.

The Free Advice Forum for Identity Theft
is a good web source. This is a forum where people can talk about identity theft and share their stories/advice. This information is useful because it gives actual identity theft stories. Hearing from the actual victims helps put things in perspective rather than just looking at a bunch of statistics. This site is the least reliable because nothing is really known about the people who post. There is no way to know if they are qualified to speak about the topic. But, if someone wants to read about how “regular” people are dealing with and reacting to identity theft, then this is a good place to go.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

The Future of Blog Rolls?

So, how will blog rolls evolve in the future? Well, this is hard to answer because I've only been aware of their existence for a few weeks. But, I'll take a stab at it anyway. I think search engine results will start to show how many blog rolls link to them in hopes to give them more credibility. Will that make them more credible? Probably not, but they will at least seem more credible. Just like user reviews on, websites will be rated by the users.
Also, maybe blog rolls will someday be able to link to ipods so we can share music on the go. Maybe ipods will link to other ipods.

Linking Worries

Classmate James Ervin brings up a very scary point in his blog post. He writes, “Most browsers allow a website to set a variable called "HTTP_REFERRER" that tells the destination website what website the visitor last visited . . .” Wow, I never knew that.

Also, James talks about some ethical questions dealing with adding links to blog rolls. One point is, “You really might not want to receive visitors from a particular site.” I can see how that could be a problem for a blog writer, but I think there may be a bigger problem with finding your blog linked on certain sites. Someone may not want their blog name linked on a site because they don’t want to be associated in any way with that site. I wrote earlier on this blog that I was worried about adding links to my blog roll because, in a way, I was vouching for those sites. But, having my link on another site associates me with that site in a small way. I don’t think I’m completely comfortable with that. But that is the price of free global communication, right?

The Best and The Worst Part 5

The Best

The article on Eric Digest is a good web source for research in the ethics of digital manipulation in photojournalism. This article explains digital photography and gives a history of digital photography. It also looks at the changes digital photography had made to the photography classroom as well as the ethics of digital manipulation. The background information in this article is something I have not found in other sources. This is will very useful in giving my research historical context and helping me to see the bigger picture of how digital photography is affecting photojournalism in different ways. This source is reliable because it is published by the Indiana University School of Education.

The Worst

Policy for the Ethical Use of Photograph from Webster University Journal gives guidelines for what is allowed and not allowed in photo manipulation. This is a bad source because it does not give any details. It simply lists what is allowed and what is not allowed but it does not elaborate on the subject, explain why these ethics exist, or give examples. Although this is not useful for my research, it would be a good quick reference to keep on hand while editing photos.

Sunday, October 16, 2005

Classmate's research

Classmate Beck Tench had an interesting post last week about sharing the road with cyclists. I find that I am always nervous when I'm driving my car around cyclists. I'm worried about hitting them, but I'm also unsure about the rules of the sharing road. Beck is trying to research how drivers are being educated about these rules but has been unsuccessful finding information. Maybe that is because there is no educating going on. I will be checking the blog as it is updated to see if answers are found. I would like to be educated on the subject.

The Best and The Worst Part 4

The Best

The web article Faking images in photojournalism is a good resource for research of the ethics of digital manipulation in photojournalism. This article about faking images gives detailed examples and historical context for photo manipulation. These details add important information to my research. Also, the article is very reliable. It was originally published in Media Development, a scholarly journal. The authors are faculty at California State University. The reference list at the end of the article is also a very helpful source.

The Worst

60 Seconds is a bad web source for my research topic. This is an article about ethics in digital photojournalism. It explains what is acceptable and unacceptable in digital manipulation. However, there is not enough detail. The author gives the major news networks a “thumbs down” for ethics but does not elaborate enough on that belief. The site seems to be reliable. According to it’s about page, “it's the longest continually running electronic journal dedicated to the visual communications community.” It is also recommended by Macworld magazine. So, if the information was more detailed I would feel comfortable using this source.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

A good point by Steve McGregor

I found classmate Steve McGregor's discussion about incorporating blogrolls into his blog interesting. He wrote, "finding content that I feel comfortable enough with to vouch for in my blog has been difficult." This is something that didn't really cross my mind as I was making my blogroll. Of course I am evaluating the links I include in the best and worst posts, but what about the blogroll links? Besides the links to my classmates blogs (required by class), I included links to several websites I go to often or find interesting. By putting these links on my blog without an evaluation of them endorses them in a way. As I rethink about all the links in my blogroll, I am comfortable enough with the reliability of their content to include them in my blog. But, thanks to Steve's discussion, I will think before I link. (That could be a slogan!)

The Best and The Worst Part 3

The Best

M/Cyclopedia of New Media is a great source of information on the Ethics of Digital Manipulation in Photojournalism. This is an article dealing with ethics, journalistic integrity, and social concerns of digital manipulation. The annotated bibliography at the end of the article adds to the reliability of the information. The subcategories of ethics—journalistic integrity and social concerns shed some new light on the subject.

The Worst

Hoot Hollow
is not a quality web source for this topic. This site highlight’s the wildlife photography of Joe and Mary Ann McDonald. They share their thoughts about the ethics of digital manipulation. There are several problems with using this site in my research. One is the reliability. I do not know what kind of authority the McDonald’s have to make the statements they do about ethics. Also, the quality of information is lacking. There are not enough details or specific examples. And finally, while wildlife photography can be photojournalism, the source does not specifically address photojournalism.

The tangled web

After making my first blogroll ever (blogroll of classmate’s blogs on the right) I am faced with the question: How does technology ease or make more difficult the dissemination of information. Well, it was definitely much too easy to add links to my blogroll. I can see how it can get almost addictive. With one click I could add a link. “Oh, this site looks good,” click. “This is a fun sit,” click. “This looks interesting,” click. But when does it stop? It’s great to be able to direct my readers to important websites. Hotlinks with in my posts make is so easy for readers follow my path through the internet. But, am I just making the tangled web of the World Wide Web more tangled? I’ve been on websites where I’ve followed link after link after link and gotten so lost that I never found my way back. So, I think this blogroll technology is a good thing. It helps guide readers through the web. But, it must be used with restraint. We should have tour guides on our blogs not trails of breadcrumbs that leave us stranded in the dark forest.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Thoughts on evaluating web sources

I find it a challenge to evaluate web sources for academic purposes. Websites that provide a service or entertainment are easy to evaluate. If I am entertained it is a good site. If I can find the correct movie time or accurate driving directions then it is a good site. But, when it comes to academic research, the line gets blurry. The reliability of a source is hardest to evaluate for me. So far, I have only listed well-known, professional websites in my “Best” category in my evaluations. These sites are ones my professors and professional photojournalists have guided me to as good resources over the years. These sites are on the tip of almost all photojournalist’s tongues. But what happens when I run out of those sites? It’s hard to tell who is qualified to speak about ethics. I try to only find sources that give specific examples of published images. This way I at least know the author is speaking about actual events. But, it is very difficult to trust anything I find on the web that is not directly affiliated with an already reliable source.

The Best and The Worst Part 2

The Best
PoynterOnline is a good web source for research of Ethics of Digital Manipulation in Photojournalism. The article on this site tells the story of an ethical problem at The Courier-Journal. The paper unknowingly published a digital manipulated photograph that broke all the accepted rules of ethics. This article is very valuable to my research. It includes both the original and the manipulated image. It gives me a real-life example of the dilemmas and consequences of digital manipulation. The details are rich and quotes from the people involved situation are telling. Also, Poynter is a well respected and reliable source for journalists.

The Worst

The community forum on is a web source for my research. This is a discussion thread about the ethics of digital manipulation of nature photography. The main questions discussed is how and where should a publication indicate that an image is really a Photoshop illustration rather than a true photograph? The reason this source cannot be used in my research is the reliability of the source. Although is a respectable web site for photographers, there is no way to identify and evaluate the qualifications of the people posting comments. I would only want to take into consideration ethical stances of photojournalists. But, in this community, anyone can post a comment.

About This Blog

I created this blog in conjunction with my Global Impact of Communication Technology class. It is now the home to all my research on the topic of Ethics of Digital Manipulation in Photojournalism. In addition to my own research, I have added links to the blogs of all my classmates on the right side of this page. From time to time I will be commenting on their research as well as my own.

So why am I qualified to write this blog? Well, I am a Master's student in Journalism and Mass Communications at the University of North Carolina. My concentration is photojournalism. I have about five years experience with digital photography and photoshop techniques. I am also trained in darkroom techniques. Therefore, I know the difference between image manipulation in the darkroom and image manipulation on the computer. I also have several years experience as a photographer in the field and I know the ethical dilemmas that can occur. I believe this research is important to my own growth as a photojournalist.

Monday, October 10, 2005

The Best and The Worst Part 1

I will begin to post the best and the worst websites dealing with my research topic this week.
I will be examining the following:
  • quality of the information presented
  • the reliability of the site
  • the usefulness of the content

The Best

An excellent web source about the ethics of digital manipulation in photojournalism is NPPA. This is the official site of the National Press Photographers’ Association so the reliability is very high. The information includes the code of ethics that all professional photojournalists should follow. There are also examples of “before and after” images that help explain what is acceptable and unacceptable in digital manipulation. I find this information very useful for my research.

The Worst

Dan Heller Photography is a web source about the ethics of digital manipulation in photojournalism that I will not use in my research. It is a website promoting the photography of Heller as well as explaining his views on the ethics of digital manipulation. I am uneasy about this site because I do not recognize the name of the photographer so I do not know the reliability of his ethics discussion. There is quite a bit of information on this site, but I cannot find a reason to accept his authority on the subject.