By: The Associated Press
A staff photographer for The Blade who digitally altered a front-page photo will be suspended until an investigation is completed, the newspaper said Friday.
Allan Detrich told Blade editors that he altered the photo of an Ohio college baseball team for his personal files and mistakenly sent it to the newspaper. He called it ?a bad mistake on my part.?
The Blade is in the process of reviewing Detrich?s other photos published in the newspaper, said Blade spokeswoman Luann Sharp. Detrich began working for The Blade in 1989.
?We?re looking to see if this is a one-time occurrence or if it has happened before,? Sharp said. Detrich will be suspended with pay prior to returning to work on Sunday following two days off, Sharp said.
The Associated Press has removed access to 50 images created by Detrich from AP?s photo archive.
The AP last year removed images from its archive that were created by a Beirut-based freelance photographer who the Reuters news agency said manipulated two photos.
Detrich?s photo of Bluffton University?s baseball team showed players kneeling March 30 at their first game after a crash that killed five players in Atlanta. Photos of the team in other Ohio newspapers showed the legs of someone standing in the background. The legs did not appear in The Blade photo, taken from a similar angle.
Detrich was a Pulitzer Prize finalist in feature photography in 1998 for a series of photos of children who fled abusive parents.
The Blade, owned by Block Communications Inc., has a circulation of 135,000 on weekdays and 180,000 on Sundays
An earlier article by Daryl Lang of Photo District News, a sister E&P publication, follows.
The Toledo Blade published a photo on its March 31 front page that was digitally altered to remove a distracting pair of legs.
The photographer admits he altered the photo on his laptop at the scene, but says he meant to keep that file for personal use and transmitted it to his editors by accident.
“It was mistake, plain and simple,” says staff photographer Allan Detrich. “But it was a big mistake.”
The photo shows members of the Bluffton University baseball team praying before their season opener, their first game after five of their teammates were killed in a bus accident.
The NPPA’s News Photographer magazine first reported the case of manipulation on its Web site Thursday. The Blade acknowledged Thursday that the photo had been manipulated and said it was investigating.
“This allegation was brought to our attention by the NPPA late Wednesday night,” the Blade said in a statement e-mailed by Assistant Managing Editor Luann Sharp. “The Blade’s preliminary investigation confirms that the photo of the Bluffton baseball team published on page A-1 March 31, was digitally altered before it was submitted to
the newspaper for publication. It was one of 16 photos turned in and it was the only one that was altered prior to being sent to the photo desk. The photographer’s explanation is that he altered the photo for his personal files and inadvertently transmitted the wrong picture for
publication. The Blade takes such matters very seriously and we are continuing our internal investigation. We will also notify our readers that an altered photograph was published.”
The NPPA and others noticed the alteration because other photographers were shooting the same scene from a similar angle. Nearly identical photographs ran on the front pages of at least three other Ohio newspapers – cropped extremely horizontal to show the kneeling players
and five banners memorializing their teammates killed in the accident. In every photograph except Detrich’s, a pair of legs is seen protruding from behind a banner hanging on a fence.
In an interview Thursday with PDN, Detrich admitted he made a mistake, but said it was not malicious.
“I did one copy where I cloned out the legs and stuff for my personal use,” Detrich says. “Sometimes I like to just make pictures beautiful. And I’ll make a print for my office or something. I put that in a personal folder on my computer called ‘keepers.’ At the same time, I also had the original photo with the legs in my transmit folder. And the altered one was also in my transmit folder but hadn’t gotten deleted. We were on deadline, I clicked the picture, transmitted it and obviously it was the wrong one to send. And that’s what happened.”
“I’ve been in this business 25 years. I’m not a cloner, that’s not something I would do,” he says.
Detrich says he has worked for the Blade since 1989 and has never had another incident like this one.
As for why he didn’t inform his editors earlier that the wrong photo had run, Detrich says he simply didn’t see the newspaper.
“I’m on the road five days a week and I don’t get the paper at my house. If I would have seen it I would have noticed it was the wrong picture and notified my editors,” he says. “If I get into the Blade [office] I have time to look at papers, but I don’t see papers every day.”
News Photographer reports that the person standing behind the sign in the photo was another photographer: Madalyn Ruggiero, a freelancer working for the Chicago Tribune. Ruggiero told the Web site she was trying to get a different angle of the players.
Changing the content of a photograph without labeling it as an illustration violates the ethics codes of most news organizations. Several photojournalists have lost their jobs in recent years over digitally manipulated photos.