Journalists are charged with documenting what’s happening in the world around them by capturing and presenting images. The way journalists obtain access to capturing these photos and video footage is just as important as the images themselves. Deciding which visual elements to use in telling a story — as well as which to exclude — plays a role in the story’s meaning.
Photojournalism and multimedia often cross the boundary between neutral and subjective for exactly this reason — the audience expects images to convey emotion or perspective in ways that news stories, or words themselves, do not. While these images are no less “true” than a story explained in words, it is possible to construct a reality out of images that might be slanted, even unintentionally.
Students should consider not only the news value of an image but also the emotional effect of the image on the audience.
Student media should avoid electronic manipulation that alters the truth of a photograph unless it is used as art. In that case it should be clearly labeled as a photo illustration.
Staff manual process
Students should develop a set of news values to use for evaluating an image prior to publication. These news values can help students determine when an image is relevant and necessary. Similarly, students should consider the same ethical principles applied to stories. Students should carefully consider any content that could be harmful, emotionally traumatizing or unnecessarily graphic.
When constructing a process for determining whether to publish an image, students should consider many questions, including:
• is this image important and relevant to the story?
• What makes it meaningful?
• Will the audience understand the information conveyed without reading any accompanying text?
• What story does it tell?
• What story would others be able to get from that photo?
• What, if any, warnings should accompany online content?
• Is there an alternative, better, way to show the story?
Lesson: To Print or Not to Print, Journalism Education Association
Lesson: A Picture Never Lies, Journalism Education Association
Lesson: When Journalists Err Ethically, Journalism Education Association
Lesson: Pushing Photo Editing Boundaries, Journalism Education Association
Lesson: With Freedom of the Press Comes Great Responsibility, Journalism Education Association
SPJ Code of Ethics, Society of Professional Journalists
NPPA Code of Ethics, National Press Photographers Association
Photojournalism ethics needs a reexamination, The Poynter Institute
Visual ethical guidelines join online, yearbook ethics, JEA Scholastic Press Rights Committee
Audio: Using Images from Social Media, JEA Scholastic Press Rights Committee Press Rights Minute
Audio: Ethics in Editing News Photos, JEA Scholastic Press Rights Committee. Press Rights Minute
Return to sitemap.