Ed Driscoll

Chop And Crop

Speaking of the New York Times, let’s give credit where credit is due — the Gray Lady has a thoughtful piece by photographer David Hume Kennerly, a reminder that media bias is often reflected in deliberate omission: kennerly1-9-17-09

The Sept. 14th Newsweek cover line — “Is Your Baby Racist?” — should have included a sub-head, “Is Dick Cheney a Butcher?”

Featured inside the magazine was a full-page, stand-alone picture of former Vice President Dick Cheney, knife in hand, leaning over a bloody carving board. Newsweek used it to illustrate a quote that he made about C.I.A. interrogators. By linking that photo with Mr. Cheney’s comment and giving it such prominence, they implied something sinister, macabre, or even evil was going on there.

I took that photograph at his daughter Liz’s home during a two-day assignment, and was shocked by its usage. The meat on the cutting board wasn’t the only thing butchered. In fact, Newsweek chose to crop out two-thirds of the original photograph, which showed Mrs. Cheney, both of their daughters, and one of their grandchildren, who were also in the kitchen, getting ready for a simple family dinner.

kennerly2-9-17-09

However, Newsweek’s objective in running the cropped version was to illustrate its editorial point of view, which could only have been done by shifting the content of the image so that readers just saw what the editors wanted them to see. This radical alteration is photo fakery. Newsweek’s choice to run my picture as a political cartoon not only embarrassed and humiliated me and ridiculed the subject of the picture, but it ultimately denigrated my profession.

Photojournalists fight the credibility battle every day, from combating digitally faked photos to being lumped in with the paparazzi, a group of camera-carrying cretins who have no respect for anything, particularly the people they hound. In the case of my Cheney photo, Newsweek is guilty not just of blurring but of blowing up that line between tabloid-style sensationalism and honest photojournalism.

Newsweek? Blowing up the line between tabloid-style sensationalism and honest journalism?

Heaven forfend.

(An earlier, and far more extreme example of photo manipulation can be found here.)

Update: Danny Glover adds, “Playing editorial games with photos is one of the oldest and most deadly forms of sniper journalism.” Not to be confused with it text-based equivalent, ransom-note journalism.