By Donald R. Winslow
© 2007 News Photographer magazine
TOLEDO, OH – Veteran staff photographer Allan Detrich, who was suspended from work at The Toledo Blade while editors continued their investigation into his digitally altered page one photograph from last week, has resigned from the newspaper effective Saturday, April 7, the Blade announced today.
Meanwhile the investigation at the newspaper continues, regardless of Detrich's resignation, to see if there are more digitally altered photographs in their archives.
Asked today about the digitally manipulated photo after news of his resignation circulated, Detrich told News Photographer magazine that in retrospect, "It should never have been done. I apologize to everyone that I've hurt. I'm going to pursue things for myself now. I hope that the people that I've met and known over the years are still friends, no matter what happens, and I appreciate all the friendships that I've formed in the community and all the eMails that people have sent me."
On his blog Detrich wrote today that he has grown tired of the news business and that after 25 years of journalism it "just has not been fun anymore," and that he is "moving on to other things." The photographer told News Photographer magazine today that several weeks ago he formed a new company with some of his "storm-chaser friends," and that they intend to go into business offering a weather training course for first responders.
"He has not taken any photographs for the newspaper since his fact-finding meeting [with editors] last Thursday," Blade assistant managing editor for administration Luann Sharp said today. "All of his photos have been frozen in our archives pending further review by us." She said the photographer resigned in an eMail sent on Saturday.
Sharp told News Photographer magazine today, "As we explained to Allan on Friday, part of our review is to determine whether the transmission of an altered photo from the Bluffton baseball game was a 'simple mistake' or if there are other photos that were altered prior to publication. The investigation should be completed this week and we'll let readers know what we find. His resignation does not halt that investigation, as we need to be sure we are truthful with our readers."
Sharp said that in the aftermath of Detrich's altered photograph no new policies have been put into place at the paper, but that there will be a photography staff meeting on Tuesday "to reinforce our policy. We pay for our photographers and editors to belong to NPPA, so the expectations are quite clear. We'll walk them through it again, but we're pretty standard on 'crop it, caption it, send it' in terms of how we want our photographers to work." Sharp said there may or may not be changes in field practices for photographers based on their feedback during the upcoming meeting and on the outcome of the newspaper's experience with the Bluffton incident.
A page one photograph by Detrich last Saturday of the Bluffton University's baseball team kneeling in front of outfield banners created a controversy when a pair of legs clad in blue jeans that were visible behind one of the banners in other page one photographs in newspapers around the state were missing from the photograph published in the Blade. An investigation by Blade editors determined that the legs had been removed in Detrich's picture by digital manipulation prior to the picture being transmitted from Bluffton to the newspaper.
Detrich at first denied the alteration, telling News Photographer magazine that he didn't know what happened to the legs. Then later that same day when he met with editors he said that the photo's manipulation "was for his personal files," and that the wrong file was transmitted to the newspaper while he was on deadline "by mistake." He said that by doing the alteration he was trying to make "a beautiful photo," and that the altered picture was intended only for a print to be made for his office wall.
On Saturday the Associated Press in New York pulled all of Detrich's photographs from their archives. And some of Detrich's photographs, which were also available for purchase on printroom.com, were removed from that commercial Web site over the weekend as well.
The veteran photographer was scheduled to be off Friday and Saturday and return to work on Sunday, but Blade editors informed him on Friday that he was suspended for at least two days, with pay, starting on Sunday and continuing through Monday while their investigation continued.
When told of his suspension on Saturday, Detrich was also asked to turn in photography gear that was owned by the Blade, sources said.
Editors and Nate Parsons, the director of photography for the Blade, are now continuing their look back through all of Detrich’s previous work to see if other published photographs may have been digitally altered.
On Friday the Blade published this correction.
Detrich posted an entry on his personal blog after the incident and wrote about the altered photograph. He penned, “Yes. It was what it was, but I wanted it perfect, and maybe that is where I went wrong, trying to be perfect, in the end showed my flaws...”
The photographer is a native of Attica, OH, and attended the Ohio Institute of Photography in Dayton. Before that he worked for The Sunday Sun-Journal in Lewiston, ME; The Advertiser-Tribune in Tiffin, OH; the Daily Gazette in Xenia, OH; and The Kettering-Oakwood Times in Kettering, OH. He was also the Blade’s bureau photographer in Washington, DC, where he shot for Toledo and the Blade’s sister paper, The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, which are both owned by the Block News Alliance.
In 1998, Detrich was runner-up for the Pulitzer Prize in Feature photography for a five part series "Children of the Underground." It was an in-depth look at a covert underground organization that hides sexually abused children. Two times Detrich was the Ohio News Photographers Association Photographer of the Year (1991 and 1993), he won the Ohio clip contest Photographer of the Year title in 1994, and in 1991 he was the NPPA Region 4 Photographer of the Year.
A Web site called Bladevent.com, which promotes itself as a site that comments on Toledo's media and pop culture, has been following the Detrich story since Friday and has been getting a lot of attention online from members of the photojournalism community who've been discussing what's been posted there.