Research (Vol. 51): Digital Ethics in an age of instantaneous publication

Students more tolerant of digital photo manipulation of graphic, spot news images in college media

By Bradley Wilson, Ph.D.
Midwestern State University


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Bradley Wilson, Managing Editor College Media Review

Introduction — At two national college media conventions, advisers filled the room to talk about policy development, policies ranging from when to refuse advertising to how readers can submit letters to the editor to what types of manipulation can be done to photojournalistic images and when. The advisers in each of the sessions were not the only ones indicating they wanted help developing some or better policies for such situations. Indeed, only 17 percent of respondents — and only 20 percent of college media advisers — to the survey at the foundation of this research indicated they had any policies regarding the digital manipulation of such images, a clear indication that there is room for the development of guidelines and sample policies for colleges and universities to use as a starting point. The results of this survey showed students were much more tolerant of significant digital manipulation than either advisers or professionals demonstrating need for training, discussion and clear wording of ethical principles and guidelines. Whether dealing with basic photojournalistic ethics or digital ethics, both photographs from the 2013 Boston Marathon and the abundance of prior literature provide a specific case study for discussion.

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