« Links With Your Coffee - Thursday | Main | Latino 911! »

The Economist Photoshops Obama's Picture

The Colbert ReportMon - Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
The Economist Photoshops Obama's Picture
Colbert Report Full Episodes2010 ElectionFox News



i don't see anything wrong with that particular instance of photocropping, really. it's a cover, they needed an image, they could have made it a cartoon- it's not a news shot. photocropping (and shopping) IS used in sinister ways to doctor actual news shots- for instance, the recent photos of captured idf soldiers on the mavi mamara, where blood on the ship and knives in the hands of the turkish "peace activists" were cropped. in this instance, however, it seems harmless. perhaps the image could have been shown with ragged edges, or with "scissor marks", or a published clarification that the photo had been altered, but in principle i don't see anything wrong with it, the presence of the other people doesn't nullify obama's body language, which is what the economist was, after all, trying to emphasize.

still, colbert manages to make it hilarious, and a general indictment of sneaky photo alteration, which is a good thing. i just hope people can tell a legit "artistic commentary" use from an underhanded political one, and i fear colbert is muddying the waters here.

I agree with this comment over a the Economist website:

I disagree with the Economist, and I suspect most people do, even if they don't like the NYT like a few people posting here (which in itself shows how seriously their judgement should be taken). The problem is, it's fine to photoshop Kim Jong Il riding a missile: it's obviously fake . As well, the "It's time" cover is also obviously a fake/altered image (white background, clean ground, etc) and bringing it up as an argument completely misses the point: the issue isn't just alteration, but the context in which it is done, and if the alteration is obvious. Photoshopping the Star Trek Enterprise over Obama's head is obviously an altered image, meant to convey a point (just don't ask me what the point is). But the "BP vs. Obama" cover is completely misleading because (1) it looks authentic and (2) the authentic picture would actually tend to imply "BP vs. USA" since it's not just Obama standing there. The actual unaltered image would contradict the implication of the Economist's title.

I usually like the Economist, while I don't always agree with its positions. But this is just blatant alteration and falsification. It's okay to photoshop something if it's obvious that that's a piece of art or an altered image. As well, the Economist has been incorporating nationalist rhetoric into the BP debacle, so it's not exactly unpartisan in its views. As well, the statement "The damage beyond the spill” referred to on the cover, and examined in the cover leader, was the damage not to Mr. Obama, but to business in America." What does that have to do with the alteration of the cover? If you're concerned about business in America, then why not do a cover about business in America? Perhaps because you'd like to link Obama to the damage of business in America?

In summary, "We don’t edit photos in order to mislead." How do I know that? Someone else caught you in the act. How do I know if any of the photos you publish are accurate? I don't, and I'm definitely not going to take your word for it.

i too would like to see an ideal world where all photos are either unaltered or clearly marked as altered. since this doesn't seem possible, however, without draconian legislation which i would oppose, i would accept a world where consumers of such imagery where smart enough to figure out what's what. and that indeed, with the help of the interwebz, seems to be what's happening, as colbert's objections to this relatively harmless example show. we may assume that if he objects to this example, he would certainly object to more sinister examples, no?

as far as the contention of your poster above, that this example isn't so harmless, i can see what they're saying and like i said in an ideal world i would agree- there should be NO LYING ANYWHERE OF ANY KIND etc. etc. but i don't think it's realistic. there is such a thing as "artistic license" and "lying" is a part of it, if you see what i'm saying- in the name of greater truth blah blah. am i making any sense at all? :)

am i making any sense at all? :)

The smiley face makes sense. :0

I'm not sure why you went down the road of an 'ideal world'. It's a simple premise. If you are presenting an image in a news context it should be unaltered. If it is altered it should be a)obvious, or b)noted. Are people going to skirt the grey area? Sure. Did they do something 'wrong'? I say yes. Is it epic fail? I don't think so.

In a side note: When I was into Democracy Now (like I would watch it every day) I wrote them a letter requesting that they not show images if they are not going to also show the citation of date, time, location and author. I requested it because they showed suggestive images in the background when people were talking, in the same way that corporate media will show stock photos over someone talking.

So, for about a month after that THE DID IT! I was kinda proud of myself. It only lasted a month, and I wonder if it was too much for them to worry about.

But that shit always got me angry. Like showing 9-11 planes hitting buildings, then celebrating mobs in Arab lands - when the celebrating mob footage is years old. Grrrrr...

Just trying to ramble as much as possible so JB's ramble isn't out of place. :-P

Like showing 9-11 planes hitting buildings, then celebrating mobs in Arab lands - when the celebrating mob footage is years old. Grrrrr...

this is actually a pretty good example of what i WOULD put up with, although it's far from ideal of course. not to put too fine a point on it (or stray off topic) but public rejoicing in parts of the arab world after 9/11 really did occur. i witnessed it myself, fwiw. so using stock footage of celebrating arabs to illustrate something that actually happened is not, in my book, the worst misuse of photographic imagery i can imagine, though again not ideal. in the same way the photo of obama here was used in an illustrative fashion to show something that's (probably) true- namely obamas sense of humility and isolation in the face of the failing cleanup efforts in the gulf. again, it's illustrative, not a news shot.maybe they should have put a note on the inside cover that the photo had been cropped, but personally i think the photo- doctored as it was- provided an excellent illustration of what they were trying to show. removing the "background" figures to emphasize the presidents body language was a smart artistic/editorial move imo.

I think we are on the same page. Great use of imagery to illustrate a point, but poor judgement to not let the reader/view know that they are illustrating a point with edited/stock footage. I think the question is useful: What is the ideal standard for ideal journalism. Ideals are usually hard to achieve, or take effort to follow. These may not be examples of horrible journalism, but I think we are justified in expecting more.

I have to disagree with you JB.

I think its wrong for news sources to editorialize with things that could be considered factual, like photos. Altered photos should not be a for of editorializing. I don't think there should be a ton of gray area for them to much around in.

I don't think the enforcer of this rule should be the government, but the journalistic community. When its done news sources should be criticized for poor judgement, as they have been in this case.


Support this site

Google Ads

Powered by Movable Type Pro

Copyright © 2002-2017 Norman Jenson


Commenting Policy

note: non-authenticated comments are moderated, you can avoid the delay by registering.

Random Quotation

Individual Archives

Monthly Archives