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The Economist Alteration of Obama Photo: Unethical?

Discussion in 'Journalism topics only' started by Point of Order, Jul 5, 2010.

  1. Point of Order

    Point of Order Active Member

    Lady gets 'shopped out and replaced by Gulf water to make it look like Obama is standing there alone. Editor says "We removed her not to make a political point, but because the presence of an unknown woman would have been puzzling to readers."

    Whaddya think? Is it ethical? Seems like a pretty big stain on The Economist's impeccable rep to me.


    Last edited by a moderator: Dec 15, 2014
  2. dooley_womack1

    dooley_womack1 Well-Known Member


    "Question: Do you think I'm smarter than everyone else because I read The Economist, or do I read The Economist because I'm smarter than everyone else? Now, there's a conundrum! I should mail that one in to The Economist and see what they think!"

    Anyhoo, I dunno if it's a stain, but it is dodgy.
  3. Armchair_QB

    Armchair_QB Well-Known Member

    It's not Time Darkening OJ's Mugshot Bad but it's still not a good idea.
  4. cwilson3

    cwilson3 Member

    One simple question: was it labeled as a photo illustration? If it was then, no, it is not unethical.
  5. Armchair_QB

    Armchair_QB Well-Known Member

    I don't think it was.
  6. RickStain

    RickStain Well-Known Member

    The "we put a 9-point label in the corner so it's all okay" thing is silly. If it looks like a real photo at a glance, it needs to be a real photo.
  7. reformedhack

    reformedhack Active Member

    Magazine cover photos are edited all the time in ways far more radical and objectionable than this. This is nothing egregious. It's not meant to be a literal, spot-news image -- it's illustrative.

    That said, it's also not a direction I would have gone, as a glossy-magazine editor myself, but there's no harm done with The Economist's decision.
  8. joe_schmoe

    joe_schmoe Active Member

    If it's their photo, I don't have too much of a problem with them doing it. I have a problem with the editors' response" "the presence of an unknown woman". What? Your reporters aren't skilled enough to figure out who is with the president at this moment?

    Seriously, unless he's out doing PR and shaking random hands, people don't just get to stand by the president randomly. She was there for a reason. even if you can't get a name, you can figure out if she's on the president's staff, governor's staff, BP, etc...
  9. ringer

    ringer Member

    This smells rotten on several levels

    (1) The importance of that particular photo. It was the most incredible we've-absolutely-gotta-run-it-on-the-cover photo they could possibly find? Dubious

    (2) The rationale: the unknown woman would have confused readers. Yeah, right, because everyone knows that Obama never talks to locals or experts.

    (3) Double standard: a photographer would be hung if he/she had staged the photo by asking the woman to move, but if an editor wants to stage a photo (by using photoshop), it's OK?

    (4) Bottom line: manipulating photos is a major breach of journalistic ethics. A disclaimer doesn't excuse it.
  10. BTExpress

    BTExpress Well-Known Member

    I think they meant in the readers' eyes it would have been an unknown woman.

    Reuters ID'd the woman in its caption. So she was never "unknown" to anyone at The Economist.
  11. Boom_70

    Boom_70 Well-Known Member

    No more unethical that Newsweek putting the Runners World photo of Sarah Palin on their cover.
  12. DanOregon

    DanOregon Well-Known Member

    What bothers me more is that the Economist could have hired a shooter and said we want a good shot of Obama on the shore examining the damage - even better if you can get some oil rigs in the background.
    Instead they looked at a bunch of spec or wire photos - chose one and screwed around with it.
    If a writer needed a quote from someone for a story and just pulled a quote from some other story, unaware about what, if any, question prompted the quote - and stuck it in an article - they would be looking for a new job - (or a new stringer or assistant if you worked at the New York Times).
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