Journalism, Photoshop, Ethics and Discrimination

Posted on Tuesday 8 August 2006

Reuters is one of the largest media companies in the world. Their well known for their news coverage in written, photographic and television media. They are also well known for their business and financial news coverage. However, recently, their credibility has come under fire—understandably so.

Altered photo that was released on Reuters News Service and original imageA recent photo, that was supposedly taken by a Reuters stringer, in the aftermath of the fighting in Lebanon and Israel, and released by Reuters onto their news service was clearly altered. It is pretty obvious that the photo has been altered, as you can compare the the released photo on the left with the original image on the right.

I find this interesting, as I used to work with some of the photographers and journalists at Reuters. During my seven years with Reuters, many of the journalists, both writers and photographers, were people with great pride and integrity in their work. I do hope that none of the journalists and photographers I knew and respected were involved in this episode.

However, the management there was a different story. The management is rife with favoritism, incompetence and bigotry. People were often promoted based on who they knew and toadied up to, rather than what their actual skills were. It was often said that if you didn’t have a British accent, it was very unlikely that you’d go far at the company. It was inevitable, given how unethical and bigoted the corporate leadership at Reuters is, would eventually lead to a breakdown in the ethics shown by the journalists.

There are many other things that Reuters does that are at least ethically questionable, if not legally questionable. They have a long track record of bigotry and discrimination. During one round of reduction in force, the head of Editorial’s HR department was asked about corporate diversity and the fact that they had laid off a group that consisted of two African American women, an African American man, a gay man, Hispanic woman and a blind man in the Washington, DC bureau alone. His reply was “Well then, we got rid of one of each didn’t we.” or something to that effect. The blind man that was let go was the director of diversity for Reuters’ editorial division.

One of the Hispanic women laid off in the next reduction-in-force was a fairly senior HR person in Washington, DC, who had handled most of the Latin American HR problems, and was fluent in Spanish. She also created and maintained several important in-house HR reports and forms. Yet, she was told that her skills were not needed at Reuters. The one HR manager who was retained in Washington, DC, had little in the way of computer or foreign language skills, and over eight years less experience at Reuters—but was someone who sucked up to the head of Editorial HR department and a caucasian woman.

At Reuters, the corporate ethics were pretty lacking too. A good example of this is the Winter Olympics at Salt Lake City in 2002. The IT manager at the time failed to get the necessary Photoshop licenses needed for the computers used for Reuters’ Olympic coverage. When he was asked about compliance, he said that Photoshop wasn’t used on most of the computers, even though it was included in the system image.

However, my personal experience and that several of my colleauges in the IT department, showed that almost all the photographers did use Photoshop on the computers they were issued at Salt Lake City. Furthermore, the Adobe license agreement requires that each machine have a separate serial number, and a license is required for installation of the software, regardless of whether the software is used or not.

There were many other software applications that Reuters commonly pirated, without any regard to the licensing. Some of the other software that was commonly pirated by Reuters for corporate use were Microsoft Office, Symantec Ghost, Norton AntiVirus, PowerQuest DriveImage and PartitionMagic, PC Anywhere, DameWare NT Utilities.

3 Comments for 'Journalism, Photoshop, Ethics and Discrimination'

    August 9, 2006 | 10:28 pm

    OK – I agree it’s wrong to doctor pictures to alter the story they tell. But why did anyone bother to change this photo and why did everyone get so upset about it? Both versions show a bombed city and lots of smoke. The message is the same.

    August 10, 2006 | 7:01 am

    The laughable part is the photographer said that the alterations were caused by his working under bad lighting conditions or something to that effect. Yes, the message is the same, and there is little difference in the true content of either photo—they both do show a bombed city and smoke—but the media has a responsibility to represent the truth.

    However, the images the news media provides are often accepted as being truthful representations of what actually occurred. The fact that Reuters, a very important media source, allowed a clearly doctored photo to be disseminated world-wide is very disturbing. I believe that Reuters has a journalistic responsibility to prevent any image that has been manipulated, whether it distorts the reality of the situation or not, from reaching the world press.

    September 11, 2011 | 3:25 am

    […] it’s ethically right to use Photoshop to do anything more than resizing a picture. I found a blog post about how Reuters enhanced a picture to make smoke look worse than it really is. Eco World […]

Leave a comment



Information for comment users
Line and paragraph breaks are implemented automatically. Your e-mail address is never displayed. Please consider what you're posting.

All comments are subject to review and approval
before being posted on this site.

Use the buttons below to customise your comment.

RSS feed for comments on this post | TrackBack URI