A Slippery Slope Down the Capitol Steps

January 9, 2013 01:30

By Mike Cavender, RTDNA Executive Director

There are more than a few Americans who believe much of what happens in Washington these days defies reality.   In the case of a recent “Kodak Moment” on the Capitol steps, they would be right.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi decided the swearing-in of a record number of Democratic women was an historic moment worth a photo.  57 of the 61 congresswomen showed up for the picture on the Capitol steps. 

But by the time the photo made it to
Pelosi’s Flickr site, all 61 were present and accounted for—the last four through the magic of Photoshop manipulation!

Late last week, Pelosi said, despite the “editing”, the photo still provides “…an accurate historical record of who the Democratic women of Congress are.”

Nevertheless, RTDNA joins with both the White House News Photographers Association (WHNPA) and the National Press Photographers Association (NPPA) in protesting this kind of news manipulation—no matter how minor or inconsequential to some it may seem.

The reasoning is simple:  If it’s acceptable to alter a simple PR picture at the Capitol, what’s next?   Therein exists the conundrum of “handout” photos (or video) in general.  If we choose to use these images, how can we really be sure they are providing an accurate and honest representation of the event?

WHNPA President Ron Sachs said the “doctored” photo calls into question “...the integrity of photos released by the government.”  NPPA President Sean Elliot added, “…the NPPA deplores any practice that would continue to degrade the public’s perception of the credibility of photographs, especially those made as an official public record.”

RTDNA Code of Ethics also cautions against the use of manipulated images and urges journalists to always disclose the origin of material which is not produced by the news organization itself. 

It’s a slippery slope and it’s one we don’t need to slide down.