Teaching Examples

Allan Detrich resigns after photo fallout
April 10, 2007, 1:11 pm
Filed under: ethics, journalism, photojournalism

Allan Detrich, a 25-veteran of photojournalism, has resigned from his job at the Toledo Blade newspaper. This is a sad story, and I feel more compassion for Detrich (whom I have never met) than anything else.

His story will serve as a cautionary tale for our students for many years.

The moral of the story is that in a 24/7 digital world, a journalist is always one click away from a serious error that would put false information before the public.

Online, we can correct the error rapidly. But in print, an error remains fixed in time. Either way, the manipulation or falsehood will be noticed, and in most cases, at least one head will have to roll. It’s not an occasion for rejoicing or smugness. It does, however, make a public claim to journalism’s commitment to truth and accuracy.

Update (April 15): From the Toledo Blade today:

An intensive investigation of Mr. Detrich’s work, conducted by Nate Parsons, The Blade’s director of photography, found that since January of this year, Mr. Detrich submitted 947 photographs for publication, of which 79 had been digitally altered….

The changes Mr. Detrich made included erasing people, tree limbs, utility poles, electrical wires, electrical outlets, and other background elements from photographs. In other cases, he added elements such as tree branches and shrubbery.

What I wrote earlier about compassion? No longer true. Now I’m just disgusted.

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