Altered Photo Faux Pas p.11

By: STACY JONES CHALK IT UP to incompetence or a misapplied competitive spirit, or both, but the photo alteration by the New York Post was clearly a mistake.
A May 30 story by the Post about a 13-year-old Brooklyn girl who won the Scripps-Howard National Spelling Bee was accompanied by an Associated Press photo that showed the girl jumping in celebration, her arms in the air, fists clinched. A sign hung around her neck showing her contestant number and hometown. Missing from the sign was the name of the girl's sponsor, the Daily News, the Post's arch rival.
In similar or identical photos that ran in the News and other newspapers, the line referencing the Daily News is clear.
So what prompted the deletion? The Post wasn't talking. But Pete Hamill, editor in chief of the News, was.
"When I first saw it I laughed out loud over the stupidity of it," said Hamill. "It was so ludicrous."
Despite his wealth of experience in the newspaper business, Hamill was at a loss to explain just what the Post was thinking. "I have no idea. I can't imagine there was a call made to [editor] Ken Chandler in the middle of the night asking if he wanted to alter a photo," said Hamill, who suspected it was probably the work of a "lower-level" employee.
The Post's photo mishap was covered by all of the New York City dailies.
More than stupid, the Post's photographic tweak is unethical, charged Hamill. "A photo is a fact. They altered a fact."
At the AP, the move didn't sit too well.
While the AP has an internal policy against photo alterations ? allowing only traditional darkroom procedures like cropping and toning ? each of its subscriber papers are left to make their own rules, said AP vice president and executive photo editor Vin Alabiso.
"In the case of the Post, I would have preferred if no credit line had been used," said Alabiso. The Post's alteration "changes the content of the picture we transmitted."
While the News believes its tabloid neighbor clearly crossed a journalistic line, Hamill said no action will be taken by his paper against the Post.
It just isn't necessary, he said, "given the bath of mockery they were plunged into."
"I don't think they're likely to do that again," said Hamill.
Though the News claims to have never altered a photograph, Hamill admits that, in the past, News editors have failed to mention certain facts if they credited the competition. For example, if the Post was the sponsor of a political debate, that sponsorship wouldn't be mentioned in the News' story, or if a rival broke a story before the News, when the News ran its own version, it wouldn't explain where the tip had originated.
Now, said Hamill, the Post 's chief since January, "I try to encourage everybody here to source their stories. If some [competing] reporter went out and broke his chops, you have to give them the credit."
Repeated calls to Post editor Ken Chandler and Post managing editor Marc Kalech went unreturned.
?(The unaltered AP photo on the right bears thename of the New York Daily News on the winner's sign. The photo on the left, published by the New York Post, has the name of its rival newspaper deleted.) [Photo & Caption]
?(E&P Web Site:
?(copyright: Editor & Publisher June 14, 1997)


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