Let’s close our Thursday with news of a couple of Photoshop scandals…

First, in Johannesburg South Africa: The Citizen newspaper published a front-page photo Wednesday of a horrific bomb attack on an airport minivan in Kabul, Afghanistan, that killed 12 including two South Africans.

That’s pretty bad. But hey, the photo could have been worse, right? There could be bodies lying around or something.

And that was the problem, of course. The original photo by Massoud Hossaini and distributed by Agence France Presse did have bodies in it. Two of ’em. The Citizen Photoshopped them out before it used the picture, reports another Johannesburg-based newspaper the Mail & Guardian.

My apologies, but here’s the original:

After a debate on photo ethics broke out via social media, Citizen editor Martin Williams released an apologetic statement today:

Due to the much more graphic nature of the Kabul blast photo, we felt that blurring the bodies was appropriate. Removing them completely is, however, completely inexcusable and we readily admit that this never should have happened.

And, before you ask: No, the Citizen is not one of the papers in South Africa that has hired me to consult. And yes, whenever I go, I do try to get folks to sit through my visual ethics slideshow.

Clearly, someone needs a lesson in visual ethics.

Meanwhile, much closer to home…

The new issue of the National Review is out. Check out the cover photo.

Folks at the National Democratic Convention protesting not in favor of “choice” but actually in favor of abortion? Not damned likely.

In fact, that’s a photoillustration — and a very clever one, too, if you’re one who stands on the right-hand side of the aisle — but one that was apparently not originally labeled as such. The signs, of course, originally said “Forward.”

National Review publisher Jack Fowler posted to the magazine’s web site Wednesday:

The image used on the cover and the contents page of the October 1, 2012, issue of National Review, in both the print and various digital editions, was altered by National Review. It is not the original photograph as provided by Reuters/Newscom, and therefore should not have been attributed to this organization, nor attributed to the photographer.

And, of course, hackles were raised.

So the mistakes here…

1) The National Review built a photoillustration using a wire photo from Reuters and then credited the original photo. Most of the wire services ask clients not to manipulate their work, but it’s sometimes done anyway.

2) The National Review didn’t label the photoillustration as a photoillustration.

3) The topic of the photoillustration is one of those key issues that causes a lot of passionate debate in the first place. Meaning that folks on the left side of the aisle are going to scream “cheap shot” over this one.

But the real issue here, as I see it…

Photomanipulation is commonly done in the magazine industry. Especially on covers.


Here’s another, more recent example.

When the topic is fashion or a celebrity, hardly anyone seems to notice. But whenever the magazine industry and the breaking news industry — or, in this case, the photojournalism industry — intersect: Yeah, there are going to be conflicts.

Its time that a) The magazine industry clean up its act regarding Photoshop use. And b) for news magazines — as opposed to fashion or entertainment magazines — to lead that effort.

Thanks to multimedia editor James Michalowski for bringing this magazine incident to my attention today. And thanks to Jim Romenesko for blogging about it earlier.

Thanks to iMedia Ethics for blogging about the South African incident today.