An Examination of News Discrepancies in Photojournalism

Recently, news anchor Brian Williams was suspended for six months without pay due to his “misremembering” of events related to a helicopter attack in Iraq after soldiers involved in the incident contradicted his story in social media. Now other statements he has made regarding Hurricane Katrina are also being called into question. According to the respected research firm, The Marketing Arm, his “trustworthiness” ranking has plunged from 23rd to 835th. This is incredibly important, as Mr. Williams has anchored the most popular news show for the past decade, and is a household name for most Americans. His presentation of the news has affected millions of viewers and moved political discourse, and disintegration of his professional character brings into question the amount of trust we place in our news sources. Whereas the television news anchor develops trust by intimately speaking to the American living room, the trust placed with the photojournalist stems from a perception that photographs portray facts, and the absence of a face behind the camera. This trust may also be misplaced: famously, the picture of American soldiers raising a flag over Iwo Jima was a powerful but false representation of the events that occurred.

This project should draw attention to the power of the photographer as a journalist, rather than as an impartial recorder. I intend to compile and compare different photojournalism ethics manifestos, analyzing them next to their historical context, and applying them to case studies of recent ethical breaches. In addition, I intend to demonstrate how simple manipulations such as position, perspective, and coloring can change the atmosphere and meaning of photographs, thereby displaying how the photojournalist contributes immensely to the commercialization of the news. I hope this research will answer questions of how and why photographers manipulate their photographs, and will expound on the role of the photojournalist in news media.