Tuesday, July 6, 2010

The Big Cheese Doesn't Stand Alone

Another controversy is broiling over a digitally manipulated news image on a magazine cover.

This time it's a photograph of President Obama standing alone on a Louisiana beach, for The Economist's June 19 cover story on the BP oil spill catastrophe.

Except in the original unaltered image, by Reuters photographer Larry Downing, he's not alone. By cropping out Adm. Thad W. Allen of the Coast Guard (routinely acceptable) and Photoshopping out Charlotte Randolph, a local parish president (highly questionable), it appears that he's "looking forlornly at the ground," as a New York Times blog item accurately describes it.

The Economist violated Reuters' own strict photo-editing policies. In its defense, deputy editor Emma Duncan declared (in an email to the N.Y. Times) that cropping Allen was justified, and that Randolph was "removed not to make a political point, but because the presence of an unknown woman would have been puzzling to readers. I wanted readers to focus on Mr. Obama, not because I wanted to make him look isolated. That wasn’t the point of the story."

Still, that was indubitably the net effect -- all the more proof that any photo editing that fudges reality is bound to create more problems than it solves.

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