Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
~ U.S. Constitution, Amendment I
Having spent more than two years as a photographer and multimedia editor for Wayne State University’s The South Endstudent newspaper, I have witnessed first-hand how important our first amendment rights are as journalists and how we must constantly fight to protect them.
Fake news, misinformation, and agenda have taken over the media we consume every day.
A quick scroll through social media will bring up dozens of posts and shares from with links to sites with inaccurate information, skewed stories, and information taken out of context.
With the advent of photo manipulation software, it has become easier and easier to create images that form a narrative just a little bit better.
Take world renowned photojournalist Steve McCurry, the photographer how shot National Geographic’s famous “Afghan Girl” cover photo, for example.
In 2016, Petapixelpublished a story uncovering examples of McCurry’s work that had been digitally altered.
Many of McCurry’s edits involved removing a distracting element from an image or combing multiple photos to make one image stronger.
This only added fuel to the fire, leading the public to become more skeptical of the information we are consuming on a daily basis.
In an article discussing this very topic, the National Press Photographers Association (NPPA) said “Our credibility is damaged every time a reputable news organization is caught lying to the public.” So in a world where trust in the media has declined, how can we, as photojournalists, ensure our own credibility?
The NPPA created a set of guidelines for photojournalists must follow if they join the association. According to the NPPA, photojournalists should:
- Strive to ensure that the public’s business is conducted in public. Defend the rights of access for all journalists.
- Think proactively, as a student of psychology, sociology, politics and art to develop a unique vision and presentation. Work with a voracious appetite for current events and contemporary visual media.
- Strive for total and unrestricted access to subjects, recommend alternatives to shallow or rushed opportunities, seek a diversity of viewpoints, and work to show unpopular or unnoticed points of view.
- Avoid political, civic and business involvements or other employment that compromise or give the appearance of compromising one’s own journalistic independence.
- Strive to be unobtrusive and humble in dealing with subjects.
- Respect the integrity of the photographic moment.
- Strive by example and influence to maintain the spirit and high standards expressed in this code. When confronted with situations in which the proper action is not clear, seek the counsel of those who exhibit the highest standards of the profession. Visual journalists should continuously study their craft and the ethics that guide it.
Public trust in the media is something that must be earned and should not be taken for granted. Freedom of the press and freedom of speech are two things that make the United States a respected country. Unfortunately, that respect has gone down over the years to the point where some news cannot be trusted. The best way for us as photojournalists to regain that respect is to be vigilant in our quest to tell the most truthful story we can.