So news photographers can't alter images in any way, but new publications can? Shame on Emma Duncan, The Economist, and Reuters.
The original picture was taken by Larry Downing of Reuters. The cover crop and alteration was the responsibility of Emma Duncan, Deputy Editor of The Economist.
Why include Reuters? Implicit complicity: "Reuters has a strict policy against modifying, removing, adding to or altering any of its photographs without first obtaining the permission of Reuters and, where necessary, the third parties referred to."
I'd love to hear from Larry Downing.
Emma Duncan said, "We often edit the photos we use on our covers," and that "the presence of an unknown woman would have been puzzling to readers."
I call foul on that. If the way you read pictures is on a simple, dullard level, as design, then, no, it doesn't matter. If the way you read pictures is more subtle, to discern meaning, then the meaning of this picture has been changed. Alone, Obama looks to be hanging his head in an attitude of dejection or despair. Actually, he was most probably listening to local parish president Charlotte Randolph, the woman who got KGB'd out of the picture. That's how I read the original.
And the MM wonders why its sustainability is such a greased pig these days? Betrayals of trust, large and small, left and right.
Here's the story, by Jeremy W. Peters, at the Times' Media Decoder blog. It includes Emma Duncan's response.
(Thanks to Alessandro Berno)
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Original contents copyright 2010 by Michael C. Johnston and/or the bylined author. All Rights Reserved.
Featured Comment by Hugh Crawford: "I also put this on the Times site: It seems more puzzling to readers without Ms. Randolph than with. With Ms. Randolph (and the beach) it is obvious that the President is standing on the beach listening to someone shorter than himself. With Ms. Randolph and the beach removed, it is puzzling. Is the President noticing that he stepped in some oil? Is the President surprised to be actually walking on water? Praying? About to seal the well with his x-ray vision a la Superman? And what's that thing in the background? Didn't that BP platform blow up and sink? When and where was this photo taken anyway? That is puzzling to readers."
Featured [partial] Comment by Hugh Look : "As with so many of these 'manipulation' questions, it's not so much an absolute principle, more when a line has been crossed. It was here; you've called this one right, I think. Duncan's comment that 'I asked for Ms. Randolph to be removed because I wanted readers to focus on Mr. Obama, not because I wanted to make him look isolated' seems both confused and disingenuous. In fact, probably without realising it, she's isolated a significant problem in reporting today: the Romantic focus on the heroic (or otherwise) individual as the crux of story. Why does she want readers to focus on Obama? Here we see a photograph being used to divorce him from the complexity of the situation, from the need to take counsel and find solutions that involve many people and start from shared, rather than heroically individual, perspectives.
"Duncan is no more guilty than most in the media as they buy into the cult of personality and use images to support it. It's used just as much to vilify as to endorse, and in both cases the ways it's used is as unsophisticated and unintelligent as it is unethical and, let's face it, untruthful."
Featured Comment by Stan B.: "While not falling into the parameters of photojournalism, I think what Outside magazine did with Lance Armstrong is even worse—photoshopping 'BFD' on his shirt with the number of his age. Although they fess up to it in small print on the cover, they did so without so much as alerting him in advance."
Mike adds: The article calls Armstrong "none too pleased" and says the cyclist Twittered that the cover is "lame bullsh*t."
Featured Comment by Wil Macaulay: "I've been a long-time subscriber to The Economist and I always assume that their front covers are illustrations, and only coincidentally photographs. I do agree they should make it clear when a photo has been manipulated, however."
Featured Comment by John J. Guglielmi: "Their manipulation changes the entire tone of the photograph. As a recently retired photojournalist (40 years in the business) and picture editor, heads would have rolled at the papers I have worked at. Information comes at us from all directions these days and it is becoming harder to filter the news from opinion."
Featured Comment by Semilog: "The problem that I and many others have is not with the use of photocollage or photoillustration. The problem is making an image manufactured—not merely selected, but manufactured to look like a straight photo, and then not copping to it. I used to subscribe to The Economist, too, back when it was a more substantial magazine than it is today, so I was well aware that many of its covers are illustrations. Nevertheless, when I saw the present cover I did not assume that the photograph was manipulated. It is a very real breach of ethics from a once-proud and always feisty journal, and I am disappointed that so many of the obviously intelligent commenters below just don't seem to understand that, or to care."