Appendix B
Toward a Philosophy of Research in Photojournalism Ethics

Photojournalism An Ethical Approach

(c) 1999

Rich Beckman
University of North Carolina

The research path in photojournalism ethics is neither straight nor narrow. It is strewn with pitfalls so large that sound methodology alone cannot be your guide. The purpose of this discourse is to help you avoid the primordial ooze that awaits unsuspecting researchers who venture out unprepared into the field of photojournalism ethics.

Is There Ever a Definitive Right or Wrong?

This is always a dilemma for ethicists and should be for researchers. Your moral judgment may be right for you or your newspaper, but it is wrong to deduce that your moral judgment, or that of your survey pool, is ever right for everyone. It is therefore particularly important to qualify your conclusions based on the demographics of your pool. This is a particular problem in photojournalism research because often the situation in question will involve more than one person and therefore more than one perspective. The photographer may feel he or she acted in an ethical manner, yet the subject might feel that the photographer acted unethically. The real problem is that they may both be right.

Have You Considered the External Influences and Circumstances?

This can be a particular problem when you are doing research in areas of print journalism. When you are judging a photograph or having others judge a photograph, are you judging the ethics of the photographer or the ethics of the picture editor? What policies guide the photographer and who decided to publish the picture in question? Has the photographer been told to photograph everything possible and leave the editing and ethics decisions to the editor? How should a photographer react to this directive? Was the photographer influenced by the actions of the competing newspaper's photographer who took a similar picture? Can you, the researcher, make a sound decision about the photographer's behavior when you were not at the scene and have not experienced the mood and external influences that may have guided the photographer to take or not take a certain picture? Does it matter when the picture was taken? Did the photographer make a decision to take the picture rather than to help the subject or did the photographer take the picture after the rescue squad had already arrived? What about unpublished pictures? If an editor decides that a picture should not run, does that absolve the photographer of questionable ethical practices? Part of the researcher's role is to sort through this maze before bringing the issue forward for debate. There are numerous examples in the literature of researchers who failed to present adequate information about an event to allow their survey participants to offer an educated opinion.

Are You Using a Consistent and Quantifiable Measurement Scale?

Are there degrees of ethical behavior? Is it fair to ask your respondents to judge a particular set of circumstances as highly ethical versus ethical or as a numerical value on an ethical scale of 1-10? Is it even necessary to attempt to quantify your results or can the researcher draw adequate conclusions from answers to open-ended questions? I don't believe something can be highly ethical or barely ethical and I have never seen an adequate set of definitions which differentiates between degrees of ethical behavior. If you plan to use such a scale, be certain to include definitions of your categories.

Is It Valid to Generalize the Specific?

Some researchers examine actual events but generalize them within their study or survey. The question will read "A photographer is photographing the victims of a car accident" or "A photographer crosses a police line." This assumes that all car accidents are the same or that all police departments treat photographers the same way. This type of generalized research can be valid, but the results should not be applied to any specific occurrence, even the one the original questions may have been derived from. Perhaps we need to include a research docudrama disclaimer, "the study is based on actual events, but . . ."

Have You Tested for Cultural Bias?

What influences have had a part in formulating the ethical standards of the participants you are studying and the members of your survey subject pool? If I was raised in the city and you were raised in a rural area; if I were raised as a Catholic and you were raised as a Baptist; if I grew up in Brazil and you grew up in Brooklyn; if I was a child of the 1960s and you were a child of the 1980s; if my father was a policeman and your father was a journalist; how might these external factors influence our ethical views? Some or all of these, as well as other socioeconomic and demographic statistics, may skew our data. How do we know we have an unbiased pool if we do not even know what things influence our ethical decision-making processes? It may be important to modify how you measure for bias in a survey or interview pool. Do you need to know where your subjects fall on a societal scale of ethical/ unethical behavior? Do you need to pretest every subject and then factor their ethics rating against their responses? Although it is not possible to account for every possible cultural bias that your pool may contain, it is your responsibility, as a researcher, subject your study to the greatest possible rigor.

What Do We Hope to Accomplish by Doing Research in Photojournalism Ethics?

The best we can hope for, in my opinion, is to identify issues that should be brought forth for debate and discussion. Most photojournalists and picture editors receive their ethics training on deadline and may not have the time or historical perspective necessary to appropriately address the complexities of the situation. There is more to ethics than "use your best judgment" although many publications use this directive with their photographers. The researcher's role is not to hand down judgments from his or her ivory tower, but to lend historical and philosophical perspectives to the arguments, gather data that supports or questions hypotheses, ask new questions about old beliefs, and interpret the results of research as it applies to the existing body of knowledge and the norms of the profession.


The ethical behavior of photographers and the use of their images has been a topic of debate for many years. In 1890, in The American Annual of Photography and Photographic Almanac, Henry Harrison Suplee wrote an article entitled "The Ethics of Hand Cameras" in which he advocated resistance to the nuisance of uninvited public snap-shooting and in 1899 in the American Journal of Photography there is an article entitled "The Casuistry of Photographic Ethics" that discusses how snap-shooters invaded the privacy of others in public places.

Much of the recent literature is case-study oriented and relies on expert opinion rather than quantifiable data. There have been attempts to research areas involving visual ethics that use traditional communication research methodologies. These studies form a foundation for additional research that will help decision makers formulate policy and judge individual images and events. The following review provides an insight into the available source materials for practitioners and researchers. They are included for your consideration and to demonstrate potential areas of disagreement when researching this field.

One of the best sources for juried research articles on visual ethics is the semiannual Journal of Mass Media Ethics that began publication in 1986. Articles on visual ethics appear regularly and the fourth issue of the Journal, published in Spring/Summer 1987, was a special issue on photojournalism ethics.

Journal of Mass Media Ethics

Vol. 1, No. 1

Fall/Winter 1985-86

"Codes Should Address Exploitation of Grief by Photographers"

George E. Padgett

The author argues that the media has no right to bring moments of private grief to the public forum of the newspaper page or evening newscast. The article points a finger at organizations that award these pictures with the field's highest honors, including the Pulitzer Prize, and the failure of present media codes of ethics to adequately provide adequate guidelines for dealing with grief situations.

The author warns that "if the press does not clean up its act relative to the issue of privacy, the courts may decide to step in at some point in the not-too-distant future. While there is no precedent for the regulation of grief exploitation as an invasion of privacy, the vehicle for doing so already exists in common law privacy. A sub-section of privacy law prevents the publication of private matters, particularly when such publication violates ordinary decencies."

I agree with many of the author's complaints and every editor, reporter, and photographer should read this article. I am still not convinced, however, that the answer lies in any one code of ethics or any one set of rules. For example, the author believes that "the pain and tears of those who survived (the 1984 California McDonald's massacre) had no place in the national news" and that "while the massacre at Beirut was news of national and international significance as were those American soldiers whose lives were lost, the funeral services and the tears of family members were not."

I would argue that the tears of the living are a more potent weapon against the wrongs of society than the blood of the dead. I would argue that the pictures from California might serve to convince my readers that the importing and manufacturing of semi-automatic weapons should be banned. I would argue that those servicemen belonged to all Americans and that my readers wanted to be at the funeral services and share in that grief, if only through a picture. I would argue that it is usually not the presence of the media at the event as much as it is the irresponsible behavior of one or more members of the media at the event that causes the problem.

There are, no doubt, photojournalists who invade the privacy of their subject's grief, who make sensitive situations worse and who give the profession a black eye. But there are also many photojournalists who are sensitive, caring human beings, who struggle with the ethics of their profession and have shed many a sympathetic tear after a difficult assignment.

Every grief situation is different. No one guideline will cover them all. We should continue to discuss these situations in our papers, and at our universities and seminars in order to establish precedents that will help guide us to be responsible journalists who are sensitive to our subjects and honest with our readers.

Journal of Mass Media Ethics (special issue on photojournalism ethics)

Vol. 2, No. 2

Spring/Summer 1987

"Video Ethics: The Dilemma of Value Balancing"

Robert Steele


This article resulted from a participant-observation study at two anonymous major-market television stations for 21/2 months. The writer immersed himself in the day-to-day activities of local television news gathering and dissemination. He conducted in-depth, private, taped interviews with many photojournalists and journalists about their work, their attitudes, and their ethical beliefs. The thrust of the study was to gain insight into the structure of ethical reasoning.


This study provides an interesting look into the psyche of the television news photographer and explores some of the value judgments he or she faces while shooting on location. The researcher attempts to categorize certain patterns of ethical reasoning under such labels as veil of ignorance and utilitarianism and to isolate influences that cause certain behavior patterns, including an interesting overview of the role of competition, peer pressure, and the role of producers. This study is a good overview of the issues and provides future researchers with numerous paths to explore.

The author concludes that the individuals he interacted with were generally acting in ways they felt were ethical. Researchers who wish to expand on this study should be wary of the participant-observation methodology. Even unethical subjects might tend to act ethically when working under the researcher's microscope.

"TV News Photographer as Equipment: A Response"

Jeffrey Marks


This article is written in response to the study in the Steele article just discussed. It is a call for the inclusion of the photojournalist as an equal member of the production team so that his or her voice can be heard in the editorial decision-making processes.


The premises of this response are that photojournalists are usually not as well educated through formal schooling as reporters and that managers often treat photographers as pieces of equipment and fail to include them in the ethical decision-making process. Although these are presented under the subhead "A Few Generalities," it would have been helpful to footnote them to some quantitative data. The recommendations that the author provides to rectify this situation are excellent and should be considered by station managers, regardless of whether their staff demographics parallel the author's profile.

"Coalesce or Collide?

Ethics, Technology, and TV Journalism 1991"

Don E. Tomlinson


This article explores how new technology, particularly pixel manipulation and digital sound sampling, could open the field of journalism to a new genre of electronic ethics violations. The author explores the motivating factors of advocacy journalism, competition, career advancement, and ego gratification through four fictional case studies as driving forces toward the questionable use of these new technologies.


It is interesting that this article could now be re-written to replace each of the fictitious case studies with actual ones. This is true not only for the broadcast industry that the author explores but for the still photography industry as well. The once clear distinction between form and substance has indeed been blurred by technology as the author states.

I would have preferred if the author had also included a discussion within the article on positive influences that might result from these technologies. It is also important to remember that these are not new ethical dilemmas, it is just becoming technically easier to trip into the existing ethical pitfalls. The article is a little hard to read because of the overabundance of quotes within the text, many of which could have been paraphrased or left for the "Notes" at the conclusion of the article.

"Ten-Fifty P.I.: Emotion and the Photographer's Role"

Gary Bryant


This article presents the personal feelings, insights, and techniques of a newspaper staff photographer who covers spot news events as a regular part of his job. He discusses the credibility of the media, the perceived insensitivity of photojournalists at news scenes, the importance of news photographs as historical documents and teaching tools, and the societal good that has come the publication of many spot news pictures.


The value of this article is that it demonstrates how much thought photojournalists actually give to the ethics of spot news coverage. It belies the hard core, emotionless image of the news photographer and demonstrates that a camera is not always an impenetrable emotional shield.

I would argue with the author when he states "I feel that we, the press and photojournalists, have done a very good job in educating the public about our job roles and our viewpoint." In most markets this is still not true. Many newspapers have not developed effective channels of communication for their readers and the educational role of the newspaper ombudsman is often not well defined.

"Digital Retouching:

Is There a Place For It In Newspaper Photography?"

Shiela Reaves


The author attempts to design an early framework for the discussion of ethical problems brought about by the advent of digital retouching technology. Representatives from The Register (Santa Anna, CA), The Chicago Tribune, and USA Today, and three former presidents of the National Press Photographers Association, Gary Settle, C. Thomas Hardin, and Rich Clarkson were interviewed for this article.

The subjects agreed that any manipulation of news photographs would be unethical, but disagreed about using the technology on feature art and illustration. The article provides a glimpse of how the technology speeds up the production process and how newspapers are using it effectively without ethical violations.


The article is a good general discussion of the technology and successfully places a number of ethical questions before the reader. Unfortunately it fails to bring forth specific examples of questionable use of the technology for discussion by the panel of experts. The author briefly allows Rich Clarkson to defend the use of the technology to alter images in National Geographic but fails to solicit opinions from others about this controversial use of the technology.

The author also fails to adequately define the term feature photograph. In some cases it refers to photo illustrations and in others to the traditional definition of found moments. The text is hard to follow because of the constant intermixing of source people. It would have been better to let the reader learn the opinion of each expert rather than space short quotes throughout the article.

I also question the author's conclusion that, "Now anyone in any department of a newspaper could decide on changes in photographic images by simply having access to the computer system." This statement is an oversimplification of the digital retouching process and not a very realistic scenario.

"Against Photographic Deception"

Edwin Martin


This interpretive essay explores the subtleties of deception in photography and photojournalism. The author explores a variety of levels of viewer interpretation and photographic deception and concludes that any degree of direction on part of the photographer, when publishing within a context of expected truth, without a disclaimer, is a clear form of lying.

The essay compares numerous cinematic techniques to the working ethic of the photojournalist and argues that the symbolic implications of the photograph depend in part on what it is a photograph of-not simply on how it looks-and therefore depends on the literal accuracy of the print.


Although I do not totally agree with the author's strict literal interpretation of a photograph being dependent on its context or with his evaluation of the sophistication of the viewer, I do think this is an excellent article that should be required reading in this day of editorial illustrations and posed environmental portraiture.

I admire the author's quest for reality, but question whether any picture can meet his standards. Can a two-dimensional picture ever accurately convey reality? Can a camera, even with a normal lens, ever accurately replicate the spatial relationship of object as perceived by the human brain? Can any one moment captured on film convey to a viewer how the subject actually felt? I agree that directing is different than recording but I question whether newspapers should contain cinema verite freeze frames.

"Private Lives, Public Places: Street Photography Ethics"

A. D. Coleman


This essay explores the author's personal ethical guidelines for street photography, which he defines as, "photographs made of people on the street or in other public places without the consent of the subject." It discusses the Clarence Arrington photograph by Gianfranco Gorgoni for the New York Times and relates to a photo opportunity that the author prevented from occurring.

The essay also explores, through example, the potential misuse and misrepresentation of stock photographs by publications seeking conceptual editorial illustrations.


The author's two examples effectively illustrate his point, but one involves a picture shot in a hospital, which is certainly not "street photography" and also not legal without permission and appropriate releases.

The author concludes by stating, "The assumption that you waive your rights to control of your image and declare yourself to be free camera fodder by stepping out of your front door is an arrogance on the part of photographers; it has no legal basis. The excesses committed in its name are legion, and extreme." This is a statement that invites further research in this important ethical area.

"Dying on the Front Page: Kent State and the Pulitzer Prize"

Lesley Wischmann


This essay by a friend of Jeff Miller, the victim pictured in John Filo's Pulitzer Prize winning spot news photo from Kent State, is an angry plea for photojournalists to consider the rights of the victims they photograph. The essay recalls the pain that this photograph has caused for the author and why she feels it misrepresents what actually happened. The author also includes comments from the victim's mother who disagrees with her opinion.

There is also discussion within the essay of other famous spot news photos that the author feels misrepresented actual events or that invaded the privacy of the moment and should not have been taken.


It is always important to consider the views of the reader, particularly those present at the scene of such events. It is also important to read the ethical views, as they relate to photojournalism, of a non-joumalist, nonacademic author, for it is all too easy to get lost in the cloak of professionalism.

Many photographs, however, are painful to look at, they are intended to be. I was very familiar with John Filo's photograph as a student at Ohio State University during the early 1970s. On May 4, many of my fellow journalism classmates and I would drive to Kent State to attend annual memorial services for the victims. That photograph was a meaningful symbol to us. It did not matter that Mary Vecchio was not a student or that she did not know the victim. It only mattered that she was a human being watching another human being who was murdered for what he believed.

I am certain that the pain of the author is real. But in this instance, I believe that the picture has served a greater good, and should have been published. The author also notes that the picture was used to advertise a television special on the shootings at Kent State and suggests that "exploitative photographs should never be used to advertise a product." This is an interesting question that deserves further discussion.

"News Photography and the Pornography of Grief"

Jennifer E. Brown


This article examines a variety of issues that relate to the shooting and publication of grief photographs. It explores the decision-making process in determining if a photo is fit to print, the problem of photographic cliches, the treatment of local versus national and international news events, the victims' right to grieve privately, the effect of privacy law on the publication of grief photos, and how such photos fare in photojournalist competitions.

The author does not draw any specific conclusions on these issues other than that every day, photographs must be evaluated anew, with photographers and editors considering the important elements of taste, privacy, and news value.


The author attempts to do too much in this overview. The issues are introduced and sometimes referenced with an applicable quote, but never discussed in sufficient detail to make a contribution to the existing body of knowledge.

Over 20 sources are referenced for this six-page study, which makes for a disjointed and difficult to read article. The author offers no interpretation of these numerous quotes and fails to state any hypothesis or conclusions. This report shows a lot of work, especially from an undergraduate student, but she would have been more successful had she been advised to choose one area to explore within this broad topic.

"Balancing Good News and Bad News: An Ethical Obligation?"

Mary-Lou Galician and Steve Pastemack


As the introduction states, "this paper focuses on the ethical and moral implications of findings from the authors' national survey of television news directors' policies, practices, and perceptions of good/bad news."

The four major research areas in this survey are:

1. assessment of various mass media in terms of good news and bad news;

2. assessment of participants' own local television station practices regarding selection of good news and bad news;

3. whether established policies guide selection and presentation of good and bad news; and

4. perceptions about balance, newsworthiness, and effects of good news and bad news on television and whether broadcast journalists have an ethical obligation in the daily mix of good and bad news.

The paper follows a traditional research format that includes an introduction, the methodology, findings, and an extensive discussion.


As the authors note, the 31% return rate limits the generalizability of the results even though great care was taken to reduce bias within the sample.

The hypothesis of this study is that the ratio of bad news to good news on newscasts is greater than the actual societal ratio of such events and that this raises ethical and moral questions regarding the selection process. Unfortunately, the study revealed a large group of gatekeepers who do not consider these categories during the selection process and many who objected to the categorization of news along a good-bad scale.

The authors dismiss this view as reactive or defensive, but I think it deserves further study and discussion. I would have liked the authors to define the terms good and bad as they relate to news within this study. Is it good news if interest rates fall or does it depend on whether you are a borrower or an investor. I think we could agree on some events that are universally good or bad, but that we would also find a large number of news events that are universally ambiguous.

The question this study begets, which I am not prepared to answer, is whether researchers should apply quantitative methodologies to qualitative ethical questions.

"Consumer Magazines and Ethical Guidelines"

Vicki Hesterman


This study surveyed top-level management at 49 large-circulation consumer magazines in six areas of potential ethical conflict. The areas are:

I . freedom to choose editorial content without pressure from the advertising staff;

2. acceptability of set up photos or composite or fictional characters;

3. acceptability of gifts, tickets, and travel;

4. allowable outside activities for the editorial staff;

5. entering of nonjoumalistic contests; and

6. acceptable means for obtaining a story.

The author notes, based on the survey results, that editors differ greatly in their interpretation of what is ethical and that "arriving at any kind of a common code for magazines with different purposes may be difficult."


The participants in this survey were promised anonymity. We know that news magazines were not included in the sample, but otherwise, we do not know anything about content or demographics, other than a rough estimate of average circulation. Without this information it is hard to judge the relevance of the data unless we are willing to assume that a uniform code of ethics should apply to all large consumer magazines regardless of content, communication goals, and audience demographics.

The answer to one question, however, should cause some raised eyebrows among visual communicators. When asked; "Do you ever publish photographs that are set up without labeling them as photo illustrations?"; only 50% of the participants answered "No, we only use actual shots." It is hard to interpret what this really means because that was the only negative response among the multiple choice answers. There should have been an answer "no" for people who use illustrations and label them correctly. In any case, 50% of the respondents use illustrations and do not label them as illustrations. Whether this is 100% of the publications that use illustrations as the survey reports or some smaller percentage, it is still a lot of people abusing the trust of their readers.

Journal of Mass Media Ethics

Vol. 3, No. 2

Fall, 1988

"Ethical Implications of Electronic Still Cameras and Computer Digital Imaging in the Print Media" Douglas Parker


The author conducted interviews with 11 photographers, editors, and educators and complied them to formulate a discussion of ethical issues photojournalists face with the emergence of electronic still cameras and digital imaging.

The discussion focuses around five question areas outlined by the author:

1. Will manipulation of images increase?

2. Will still photographers become disillusioned with their profession and with editors?

3. Will still photographers have less input into what type of image appears in the paper?

4. Will the public's trust in newspapers decrease as manipulation of photos increases?

5. What will be the legal status of images that exist only in computers?

The article includes an explanation of the technology and discussion based on controversial examples of its use as well as theoretical areas of potential ethical conflict.


This is an excellent discussion by people in the field, many of whom already have access to the equipment, and have had to make ethical decisions about the extent to which they would use it.

The author concludes his article with a series of disturbing questions: "If the leading experts cannot agree on what is or is not ethical, what constitutes acceptable manipulation or enhancement? How will they be able to set standards for the next generation when virtually all news gathering will be done electronically? The experts should draw the battle lines now, because the future is here . . ."

I believe this is the wrong attitude for our profession to take. The battle lines were drawn long before digital imaging and long before electronic still cameras. They were drawn long before the 35mm camera ever became the tool of the photojournalist. Technology does not create new ethical issues. The reader does not care if you spend 2 days or 2 minutes formulating a lie. It is still a lie and still a violation of their trust. The standards we have set and the issues that we argue will continue to evolve based on our actions and societal norms. There is no need to return to the mountain for a new set of commandments.

The Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication is an international association comprised of educators, universities, and affiliates. The organization's annual convention is an excellent forum for the discussion of issues in the field. During the past 20 years, many papers have dealt with the issue of visual ethics. The following list includes those papers that were sponsored or cosponsored by the Visual Communication Division or the Radio-Television Journalism News Division. More information may be available from the authors or from the Association's national office at the University of South Carolina. Many sessions have been recorded and are available on cassette tape.

AE)MC Convention Papers


Research Paper Session
Presiding: Lorry E. Rytting, University of Utah
"Ethical Judgments About Selected Photojournalism Situations"
Fred Parrish, University of Florida

Invited Panel
"Government Pressures on Reporters and Editors"
Presiding: John Rider, Southern Illinois-Edwardsville
Panel: Roy M. Fisher, University of Missouri
Theodore F. Koop, Radio, Television News Directors Association
George Reedy, Marquette University


Research Paper Session
Presiding: James Hoyt, University of Wisconsin
"Judging People in the News-Unconsciously: The Effects of Varying Camera Angles and Bodily Activity for Visuals"
Lee M. Mandell and Donald L. Shaw, University of North Carolina


Professional Freedom and Responsibility Session
Presiding: Stephen Lamoreux, Colorado State University
"Professionalism in Photojournalism"
Perry Riddle, Chicago Daily News

Research Paper Session
Presiding: Stephen Lamoreux, Colorado State University
"Reader and Audience Reaction to Photos"
Robert E. Gilka, National Geographic Society


Professional Freedom and Responsibility Session
Presiding: Perry Riddle, Chicago Daily News
"Press Responsibility: The News Photographer's Concern"
Sandra Eisert, Washington Post

Research Paper Session
Presiding: James Fosdick, University of Wisconsin-Madison
"The Questionable Photographic: A Study of J-School Students as Gatekeepers"
William Baxter and Rebecca Quarles, University of Georgia
"Women in Photojournalism: A Survey and Professionalization Comparison"
Karen Slattery, University of Wisconsin-Madison


Research Paper Session
Presiding: William Baxter, University of Georgia
"Street Photography from the Subject's Viewpoint"
Emily Nottingham, Indiana University

Research Paper Session
Presiding: Dan Drew, University of Wisconsin-Madison
"Television and Terrorism: Professionalism Not Quite the Answer"
Herbert Terry, Indiana University


Open Paper Session
James Fosdick, Presiding
"The Prying Eye: Ethics of Photojournalism"
Whitney R. Mundt and Joseph Broussard, Louisiana State University

Student Paper Session
Presiding: I. Wilmer Counts, Indiana University
"Farm Security Administration Photography: Propaganda or Documentary?"
Fred Stanfield, University of Georgia


Research Paper Session
Presiding: Karin Ohm, University of Iowa
"The Editor's Manipulation of Photographs: An Experimental Study of the Effects of Varying Production Methods"
James Fosdick and Pam Shoemaker, University of Wisconsin-Madison
"Ethical Issues for Photojournalists: A Comparative Study of the Perspectives of Journalism Students and Law Students"
Mary Remole and James Brown, University of Minnesota
Discussant: C. Zoe Smith, Marquette University

Research Paper Session
Presiding: John C. Doolittle, Indiana University
"Broadcast Executives' Attitudes Toward Fairness, Equal Time, Ascertainment, and Communications Act Revision"
James R. Smith, SUNY-New Paltz

Professional Freedom and Responsibility Session
Presiding: Bill Thom, Marquette University
"The Professional Perspective of a Two-Time Pulitzer Prize Photographer"
Stanley Forman, Boston Herald American

Research Paper Session
Presiding: Rich Beckman, University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill
"A Crisis for Photographers: Clinton, Tennessee, 1956"
June Adamson, University of Tennessee
Discussant: James Fosdick, University of Wisconsin-Madison,p> Joint Session
Presiding: Charlene Brown, Indiana University
"The Right of Privacy vs. The Right to Gather News: Access to Records and Places"
Panelists: Aryeh Neier, NYU, Formerly, ACLU
Dwight L. Teeter, University of Texas-Austin
Michael Gartner, Des Moines Register and Tribune


Mini-plenary Session
"Photographers' Access to News Events and the Courts"
Moderator: Rich Beckman, University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill
Panelists: Don Middlebrooks, Steel, Hector and Davis, Miami, FL
William 0. Seymour, NPPA and University of West Virginia
Johannes F. Spreen, Sheriff, Oakland County

Research Paper Session
Presiding: C. Zoe Smith, Marquette University
"Changing in the Wording of Cutlines Fail to Reduce Photographs' Offensiveness"
Fred Fedler and Paul Hightower, University of Central Florida, and Tim Counts, University of South Florida

Teaching Standards Session
"Broadcast News Course Content: Techniques, Issues and Ethics"
James R. Smith, SUNY-New Paltz


Mini-plenary Session
"Media Ethics in Hostage Situations"
Presiding: Sarah Toppins, University of Illinois
Speaker: T. Joseph Scanlon, Carleton

Mini-plenary Session
"Ethical and Legal Issues in Visual Communications"
Presiding: Carolyn Cline, University of Texas-Austin
Speakers: Sandra Eisert, San Jose Mercury News
Michael Kautsch, University of Kansas
Lorraine Reed, Council of Better Business Bureaus

Research Paper Session
"Viewer Response to Contrivance in Joumalistic Photography"
Michael Diehl, University of Texas-Austin

Research Paper Session
Presiding: James A. Wollert, Memphis State University
"The Use of Anonymous Sources and Related Ethical Concerns in Journalism"
K. Tim Wulfemeyer, University of Hawaii-Manoa
"The Real-Life Referent as a Standard for News Perspective Bias"
Gretchen S. Barbatsis, Michigan State University

Teaching Session
"Teaching Students Ethics"
Presiding: Karin Ohm, University of Iowa
Speakers: Sandra Eisert, San Jose Mercury News
Will Counts, Indiana University


Professional Freedom and Responsibility Session
"Legal and Ethical Considerations Concerning the Coverage of Mt. St. Helens and Other Tragedies"
Presiding: C. Zoe Smith, Marquette University
Speakers: George Wedding, San Jose Mercury News
Steve Small, The Columbian

Research Paper Session
"Newspaper Subscribers' Responses to Accident Photos: The Acceptance Level Compared to Demographics, Death Anxiety, Fear of Death and State Anxiety"
James M. Roche, Indiana University


Research Paper Session
Moderator: K. Tim Wulfemeyer, University of Hawaii-Manoa
"Factors of Believability of Television Newscasters"
Discussant: Tony Atwater, Michigan State University


Research Paper Session
Moderator: Ken Kobre, University of Missouri-Columbia
"Photojournalism and the Infliction of Emotional Distress"
Michael Sherer, University of Nebraska
"Photography and Reality: A Matter of Ethics"
Julianne Newton, University of Texas-Austin

Teaching Standards Session
"Ethics in Photojournalism"
Tom Defayo, The Commercial Appeal, Memphis, TN


Professional Freedom and Responsibility Session
"Ethics in Broadcast Journalism: Myths, Realities, Ideals"
Moderator: Donald McBride, South Dakota State University
Panelists: Doug Fox, WFAA-TV, Dallas, TX
Tim Wulfemeyer, University of Hawaii-Manoa.
Bill Overman, KFDX-TV, Wichita Falls, TX
Paula Walker, KOTV, Tulsa, OK

Professional Freedom and Responsibility
"Ethics in Broadcast Journalism: Deciding What's Right"
Moderator: John Broholm, University of Kansas

Research Paper Session
"TV News Directors and Photographers: Matters Professional"
Moderator: Dwight Jenson, Syracuse University

"Visual Excellence and Photographic Professionalism in Local Television News"
Conrad Smith and Tom Hubbard, Ohio State University
"Television News Directors' Attitudes toward 'Good News' and 'Bad News': A National Survey"
Mary-Lou Galician, Arizona State University and Steve Pastemack, New Mexico State University
"The Changing Profiles of Broadcast News Directors"
Vernon A. Stone, Southern Illinois University
Discussants: Tim Wulfemeyer, University of Hawaii-Manoa.
John C. Doolittle, American University
Sandra H. Dickson, University of West Florida

Professional Freedom and Responsibility Session
"The Electronic Darkroom-Will It Digitize Ethics?"
Craig L. Denton, University of Utah

Research Paper Session
Moderator: Craig Denton, University of Utah
"Images of Democracy: An Analysis of Photos Published During and After Argentine Military Rule"
Jeffrey A. John, Wright State University
Discussant: Ed Scheiner, Michigan State University


Research Session
"Broadcast News-Issues and Ethics"
Presiding: John Doolittle, American University

"Gray Area in the Blue Skies"
Craig Mitchell Allen, Ohio University
Discussant: Max Ustler, University of Kansas
"R. Budd Dwyer: A Case Study in Newsroom Decision Making"
Patrick R. Parsons and William Smith, Pennsylvania State University
Discussant: Mark D. Hannon, Xavier College
"The Ferraro Financial Furor: How the Television Networks Covered It"
Jeanne M. Norton and Luther W. Sanders, University of Arkansas-Little Rock
Discussant: Tony Atwater, Michigan State University

Professional Freedom and Responsibility Session
"Ethics in Broadcast Journalism"
Presiding: Sarah Toppins, American University
Panel: John Spain, WBRZ-TV, Baton Rouge, LA
Ernie Schultz, Radio-Television News Directors Association
Tim Wulfemeyer, San Diego State University

Research Paper Session
"Clones, Codes and Conflicts of Interest in Cartooning: Cartoonists and Editors Look at Ethics"
Presiding: Doug Covert, University of Evansville
Speakers: Daniel Rife, University of Alabama
Donald Sneed, San Diego State University
Roger Van Ommeren, South Dakota State University

"Portraits of a Public Suicide"
Robert L. Baker, Pennsylvania State University
Discussant: Tom Hubbard, Ohio State University

Professional Freedom and Responsibility Session
Invited Panel: "Responsibility and Field Work Procedures in Documentary Photography"
Presiding: J. B. Colson, University of Texas-Austin
"Community Documentation"
Michael Short, Documentary Photographer, Tarascan Indians, Mexico
"A Mainstream Small Town in Northern Mexico"
Julie Newton, University of Texas-Austin
"Transitions in Cowboy and Oil Cultures in West Texas"
Rick Williams, Documentary Photographer, Albany, TX


Special Topics Session
"The Teaching of Photojournalism Ethics"
Paul Lester, University of Central Florida
Discussant: Rich Beckman, University of North Carolina

Research Paper Session
"Ideology and Press Photographs: A Framework for Analysis"
Keith Kenney, Michigan State University
"Gender Stereotypes in Sports Photographs"
Wayne Wanta and Dawn Legett, University of Texas-Austin

Mini-plenary Session
"Native Americans and the Press: Accurate Coverage or Stereotype?"
Presiding: Sharon Murphy, Marquette University
Speakers: Frank Blythe, Native American Public Broadcasting Consortium, Lincoln, NE
Richard LaCourse, LaCourse Communications, Yakima, WA
Mark Trahant, The Arizona Republic, Phoenix, AZ
Armstrong Wiggins, Indian Law Resource Center, Washington, DC

Invited Panel
"After Dwyer: Sensitivity in News Photography, a Year Later"
Presiding: Robert L. Baker, Pennsylvania State University
Speakers: James Vesely, Sacramento Union, and former chairman, APME Photojournalism Committee
John Hall, The Oregonian

Mini-plenary Session "Covering the Candidates: Private Lives of Public People"
Presiding: William L. Winter, American Press Institute
Panel: John Jacobs, San Francisco Examiner
Rollin Post, KRON-TV, San Francisco
Michael Traugott, The Gallop Organization and the University of Michigan


Refereed Paper Session
Presiding: Sandra Utt, Memphis State University
"Still-Video Photography: Tomorrow's Electronic Cameras in the Hands of Today's Photojournalists"
Kurt Foss and Robert Kahan, University of Missouri

Refereed Paper Session
Presiding: Judith M. Buddenbaum, Colorado State University
"Digital Imaging Technology is More Than Meets the Eye: The Promise and Perils of Easy Manipulation of News Photos"
Danal Terry and Dominic L. Lasorsa, University of Texas-Austin

Refereed Paper Session
Presiding: Tony Rimmer, California State University-Fullerton
"What's Ethical and What's Not in Electronic Journalism: Perceptions of News Directors"
K. Tim Wulfemeyer, San Diego State University
Discussant: James D. Harless, Ohio State University


Invited Panel
Presiding: Michael Murrie, Southern Illinois-Carbondale
"Who Owns the Pictures?"
Tom Bier, Chairman, Radio Television News Directors Association
Tom Bitney, Manager, News Graphics, Minneapolis Star-Tribune
Steve Blum, CONUS Communications, Minneapolis
Steve Murphy, News Director, WOWT-TV, Omaha, NE

Moderator: Nancy Green, president/publisher, Springfield News-Leader
"When Hell Breaks Loose-Crises We All Share"
Nancy Sharp, Fiona Chew, Joan Deppa, Lynne Flocke, Dona Hayes, Frances Plude and Maria Russell, Syracuse University
Marion Lowenstein, Stanford University
Elizabeth Dickey, University of South Carolina

Moderator: Roy Flukinger, University of Texas-Austin
"Journalism Ethics: Up Against the Berlin Wall"
Karen-Annette Franz, University of Minnesota
Theodore Glasser, Stanford University
Carolyn Wakeman, University of California, Berkeley
James Ridgeway, The Village Voice
Alec Miran, Executive Director of Special Events, CNN

Invited Paper Session
Moderator: Roy L. Moore, University of Kentucky
"Ethics and Law: Who Draws the Line Where?"
"Digital Manipulation of Electronic Photography: How Far is Too Far?"
Howard Bossen, Michigan State University
"Legal Issues in Electronic Alteration of Photographics"
Michael D. Sherer, University of Nebraska-Omaha

Refereed Paper Session
Moderator: Jim McNay, San Jose State University
"Analysis of Visual Reference Associations in Television News Coverage of the 1988 Presidential Campaign"
Jeffrey John, Wright State
"Television News Re-enactments: Setting the Stage for the Computer Manipulation of Journalism's Moving Images"
Don Tomlinson, Texas A&M University
Discussant: Doug Carr St Bonaventure,p> Invited Panel
Moderator: Stanley Wearden, Kent State University
"Teaching Resources for Ethics Classes"
Rich Beckman, University of North Carolina
Vicki Hesterman, Point Loma Nazarene
Ralph Izard, Ohio University
Bob Steele, Poynter Institute

Invited Panel
Moderator: Ted Hartwell, Minneapolis Institute of Art
"The Arts, the Media and the Public Interest: Robert Mapplethorpe and Related Issues"
Roy Flukinger, University of Texas-Austin
Diane Helleckson, St. Paul Pioneer Press

Refereed Paper Session
Moderator: Jim McNay, San Jose State
"A Method for Studying Bias and Ideology in Journalistic Photographs"
Keith Kenney, University of South Carolina
Discussant: Frank Biocca University of North Carolina

AEJMC also publishes Journalism Quarterly, Journalism Monographs, and Journalism Educator, which provide a scholarly forum for the publication of research and teaching articles The following studies are from these journals:

"The Staged News Photograph and Professional Ethics"
Walter Wilcox

This study of the ethics of staged news photos was based on a survey of photojournalists, managing editors, television newsmen, and a sample of the upper strata of the public as measured by educational attainment.

Participants were asked to rate the behavior of the photographer in each of 10 examples (all versions of actual events) as either definitely unethical, doubtful, or no ethical violation.

The author found the four groups to be in "remarkable agreement" with the most pronounced agreement occurring at the extremes of the ethical-unethical continuum. Disagreement was greatest in those situations that involved hard news and that also were "somewhat complex."


If everyone who has done research on visual ethics since 1961 had taken the time to read the introduction of this article, we would have a stronger foundation of data to build upon. Therefore, I take the space to quote the first paragraph of the article.

The study of professional ethics in a systematic fashion poses a number of formidable problems. First, the notion of ethics itself is subjective and, in a marked degree, dependent upon notions of morals and of law. Second, the subject impinges heavily upon personal moral values and the translation of these values into professional conduct, where a number of additional, and sometimes competing, values are encountered. Third, an ethic-defined as the rule governing application of personal and social morals to a professional act-has as its basis the moral values of society, which in turn, are constantly shifting. Thus, it can be said that, for the purposes of systematic study, the professional ethic is not independent of other variables, and must be treated as a manifestation of a rather complex set of values.

Although the case situations in this study are, hopefully, no longer applicable, the methodology and philosophy of this research are as sound today as they were 30 years ago.

Journalism Quarterly Vol. 60, No. 2, Summer 1983

"Ethical Newsgathering Values of the Public and Press Photographers" Craig H. Hartley


This comparative study of ethical values is based on results from a random sample survey of National Press Photographers Association members who work at publications and people listed in the Austin, TX telephone directory. Participants were asked to judge 19 hypothetical situations as either highly ethical, ethical, unethical, or highly unethical.

The study included questions of privacy, decency, faking, dispositions of negatives in court proceedings, legality versus ethics, acceptance of freebees, and the presence of photographers affecting news events.

In 17 of the 19 situations presented the difference between the photojournalists and the public exceeded the .05 significance level set for the study.


There are three things that bother me about this study. First, what is the difference between ethical and highly ethical or unethical and highly unethical? Second, some of the situations lack specific details that I think would effect the response of the participants. For example, situation 15 states, "Photographer ruins one of two remaining frames of film in another photographer's camera." What was the reason for this bizarre occurrence and how did it occur? And situation 18 states, "Photographer decides not to photograph hobo killed by train, despite being sent out to do this task." Did the photographer feel that the scene was too gruesome or that it wasn't newsworthy? His reason for this action would be important to know. Third, the author states in his interpretation of results that, "Many (photographers) shifted responsibility for their actions to the editor by saying they had a job to do, or it was the editor's decision. This is not valid reasoning." At many papers this is very valid reasoning if the photographer desires to keep his or her job. It may not be ideal, but it is reality.

Although 17 of the 19 cases showed a statistically significant difference among the two groups of respondents, it is important to realize that about half of these differences occurred on the same side of the axis and were merely a difference in the degree of ethical or unethical behavior that the respondents perceived. The author would have been well served by reviewing the Wilcox study prior to re-inventing the wheel.


An important vehicle for educating students about visual ethics is the college textbook. The following list includes many of the textbooks used in visual communication survey courses and beginning photojournalism courses at accredited schools of journalism and technical schools around the country.

Photojournalism, The Visual Approach
Frank P. Hoy
Prentice-Hall, 1986

Chapter 20, entitled "Ethics," provides the best coverage of photojournalism ethics among the textbooks that were examined. It includes visual and written examples and a discussion of the photographer's and editor's viewpoints.

I do disagree with Hoy's definition of the "cornerstone of journalism ethics," within the text and question whether we, as educators, should teach ethics to students with the degree of certainty that the following selection implies.

The photojournalist's role on the scene is dictated by the cornerstone of photojournalistic ethics-to get the picture despite any obstacles.

In general, it is not the photojournalist's job to decide whether to photograph or not. He or she is just too close to the drama and tragedy to know whether the photograph is in bad taste or is in reality an important news story that the public should know about. . . . Later the editor (or the publication's attomeys, if need be) can decide on whether the photo is invasion of privacy, libel, or even 'in good taste.'

Yet, often the first thought of the beginning photojournalist-and rightfully so-is to sympathize with the subject and to decide not to photograph. But the responsibility is clear-if it is news, a photojournalist has the obligation to report it regardless of personal reaction. Here the old adage 'shoot first and question afterwards' is a good policy.

I am aware that this is the policy at many newspapers, but there has been sufficient argument over its merits to question whether it should be stated as an accepted policy throughout the field to photojournalism students.

Photojournalism: The Professionals' Approach
Kenneth Kobre
Curtin & London, 1980

Chapter 13 is entitled, "Photographing Within The Bounds of Laws and Ethics," but deals almost entirely with the legal considerations of privacy, libel, the courts, and copyright. The brief section of the chapter that discusses ethics is good, and will be updated and expanded in a new edition.

Arthur Rothstein
Amphoto, 4th Edition, 1979

There may, at some time, be an updated version of this book. Amphoto had planned publication in 1986 and again in 1987, but both were canceled. There is a 1983 printing, which is also listed as the fourth edition.

The last chapter, entitled "Privileges and Restrictions" gives a very brief and general overview of the topic area.

Exploring Black & White Photography
Arnold Gassan
Wm. C. Brown, 1989

The last chapter in this book, entitled "Ethical and Legal Aspects," is only three pages long and does not cover ethical considerations of photojournalists.

Handbook of Photography
Ronald P. Lovell, Fred C. Zwahlen, Jr., and James A. Folts
Delmar Publishers, 1987, Second Edition

Chapter 11 is titled, "Photography, Ethics and Law," but deals almost entirely with the legal aspects of privacy, libel, copyright, and ownership.

Photojournalism: Making Pictures for Publication
Philip C. Geraci
Kendall/Hunt Publishing Co., 1978, Second Edition

This book, which is out of print, does not contain any specific discussion of ethics and there is no listing for ethics in the index.

Photojournalism, Photography With A Purpose
Robert L. Kerns
Prentice-Hall, Inc., 1980

Chapter 11, entitled "Business Skills, Legal Aspects and Community Relations," discusses libel, invasion of privacy, model releases, photographing money, and documents and the copyright law, but does not discuss applicable ethical considerations.

Photojournalism, Principles and Practices
Clifton C. Edom
Wm. C. Brown Company, 1980, 2nd Edition

Chapter 17 is entitled "A Matter of Ethics" and provides a philosophical discussion of the topic but does not include case studies or examples of pictures that have caused debate within the field.

There are two books that I am aware of that are dedicated to the topic of visual ethics. One is New Pictures Fit to Print ... or are They ? by Curtis D. MacDougall and the other is Image Ethics, The Moral Rights of Subjects in Photographs, Film, and Television, edited by Larry Gross, John Stuart Katz, and Jay Ruby.

MacDougall's book was published by Journalistic Services, Inc. in 1971. It is a shockingly honest discussion of ethical considerations in news photography. This book is an excellent historical reference, based entirely on case studies. There is commentary from many of the journalists who took the pictures and were involved in the picture editing and publication decisions. It is valuable to know from whence we came and it is all here-lynchings, disasters, Lindbergh, and wars. I recommend checking the library or used book stores if you are not familiar with this book.

Image Ethics, from Oxford University Press, 1988, provides a much more theoretical approach to the issue of ethics and also includes an excellent annotated bibliography. Most of this book deals with film, but the issues are easily paralleled in television and still photography. Most of the chapters confront the moral responsibility of preconceived visual representation, but public photography and documentary film-making are also discussed.

As you might expect from a compilation, this book wanders amidst the amorphous realm of moral convictions. Some of the chapters leave the reader feeling that artistic license supersedes moral responsibility, while others share with the reader the deepest sense of ethical consideration.

Most of this book does not directly relate to the situations that most broadcast news and publication photographers encounter on a daily basis, but the philosophical discussions are relevant and provide a good foundation for further research.