NPPA Releases New Ethics DVD

Jul 17, 2006

DURHAM, NC– John Long, chairman of the Ethics and Standards Committee for the National Press Photographers Association and an NPPA past president, has updated NPPA’s educational materials on photojournalism ethics by producing a new DVD, “Ethics in the Age of Digital Photography.”

John LongThe updated 60-minute ethics seminar contains classic examples of digital manipulation as well as provocative recent examples of ethical quandaries. Long, of The Hartford Courant, says the new DVD is aimed at college level journalism classes as well as news photography departments, and its goal is “to start discussions on ethical decision making” among photojournalism students and working professionals.

The DVD is available online at the NPPA Web site's Photo Club. The price for NPPA members is $9.99. It can be purchased online here. Telephone orders can be placed by calling Thomas Kenniff at the NPPA office in Durham at +1.919.383.7246, ext. 16.

Long wrote about the new DVD in the July 2006 issue of News Photographer magazine’s Ethics Commentary column.

“In 1989 John Cornell and Bill Hodge, both NPPA past presidents, created the Electronic Photojournalism Workshop,” Long said. “It was held on Martha’s Vineyard, and my job that year as the president of NPPA was to discuss the ethics involved with this new technology. A small group discussion was held and we thought we answered all the pertinent questions. We felt the work was done, and soon everyone would read about it in News Photographer magazine, and we could move onto other issues.”

“That was 17 years ago.”

“I’ve written thousands of words on ethics since then; given a multitude of speeches, answered hundreds of phone calls. The problems do not want to go away. It really is a Pandora’s Box. We have let the electronic genie out and it will not go back in the bottle.”

“Several years ago I recorded a tape presentation where I tried to outline an approach to the problems of ethics in the age of electronic photojournalism. I have no lock on truth; I have only my opinions and some suggestions to facilitate further discussions. In this tape I tried to create a list of vocabulary words (such as ‘credibility,’ ‘readability,’ ‘context,’ ‘fair,’ and ‘accurate’) and to detail some of the principles that work for me. I did not ask anyone to accept what I said but rather to take these words and thoughts as a beginning place for their own discussions.”

Ethics examples: Magazine covers“Since the first tape was made, I am unhappy to report, far too many new examples of ethical breaches have plagued our profession. In order to bring the discussion up to date, we have created a new version of ‘Ethics in the Age of Digital Photography,’ version 2.0, a DVD that incorporates many of the classic examples of digital manipulation along with some of the more notable new transgressions.”

“This new DVD has more than just the addition of new examples. In many ways, there has been an evolution in the ethics debate. Iraq and Hurricane Katrina have brought new issues to the fore and it seemed to me there was a need for a longer discussion on taste. We are bombarded with photos of dead soldiers, dead Iraqis, dead residents of New Orleans. Where do we draw the line on what to use and what principles do we apply to the decision-making process? Much confusion can be avoided if we differentiate between taste issues and ethical issues. Most of the problems with Iraq and Katrina have not been ethical in nature, but rather issues of taste.”

“The DVD’s one-hour talk is geared to college level journalism classes (and not just photojournalism classes but all journalism classes) and it’s intended to be used as a way to organize the material in a manner useful for further debate. The purpose is to begin discussion, not answer questions. It is also intended for photography departments at newspapers that find there is an ethics discussion starting and a structure for that discussion would be helpful. My hope is that photojournalists will use the DVD to try to explain to reporters and word editors where we are coming from. It has been my experience that word editors are the people most in need to these discussions.”

“I want to thank professor Bob Kagan, coordinator of the Communication Program at Manchester Community College in Manchester, CT, who produced this DVD for NPPA; John T. Murray of MCC who directed this program; and Stephen Dunn, the professor for the ethics course where I gave this address. All of the production work was done pro bono by MCC and I want to thank them on behalf of NPPA.”

Long concluded, “The new DVD is ready and the cost is nominal. We’re keeping the cost as low as possible so that any college or photo department can afford a copy. If there is any profit, it will go to the NPPA general fund.”