Shutter of Integrity: Collegiate photojournalists’ responsibilities and the First Amendment

Amendment 1- United States Constitution

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.

As a photojournalist, it’s important to fully understand your rights under the First Amendment.  We must do this as professionals to maintain both our integrity and to protect the First Amendment rights of yourself and others.

I understand that as a collegiate photojournalist it’s important to know what my responsibilities are as well as understanding ethical reporting.  IN a day and age of media that makes it hard to distinguish between authenticity at times, now more than ever, we must make sure we are reporting fairly and accurately.  The purpose is to build our reputation as photojournalists.  A solid reputation will lead to a career of storytelling and capturing images to share with the public in the most accurate and realistic way.

I admit that I had stopped exposing myself to the news because I also felt that it became too focused on negativity and just downright depressing.  I also understand that I cannot ignore what is going on in the world around me.  Therefore, I should filter news more carefully and question the source of what I am reading as well as the agenda.

It’s always important to know your context.  What are you trying to capture in your photo.  Will your photos be important to share with the public.  Is there an ethical purpose that serves “the greater good”.  If you can answer yes and you are within your legal rights then you should always shoot a moment you feel may be newsworthy.  If you are uncertain if it will be newsworthy but you are within the First Amendment protections then you should shoot anyways.  Even if you take photos and later discover that the photos would not serve a journalistic ethical purpose you can always not use the photos.

It’s also important to realize that photojournalism is an art but a different form that artistic photography.  Artistic photography is more openly accepted to be manipulated.  The purpose is usually esthetic rather journalistic news.  Photojournalism is an art in the sense of knowing what moments to shoot and use that represent the most accurate version of reality.  However, manipulating photos to make them look better, or portray a different version of the story is simply classified to be unethical.  I’m amazed at how many photojournalists were accused of manipulating photos particularly the ones the won awards.  I think this is where your integrity must be the sound voice rather than your ego.

I like the general rule regarding questioning how you feel about honesty when it comes to your photography.  In the textbook, Elisabeth Bondi, photo editor for several magazines including Geo and Vanity Fair, suggests “photographers test their ethical decisions by considering whether they would feel comfortable writing a note to the reader explaining how the picture was taken.” (Kobre, 2013, p. 365).  In other words, if the set-up sounds ridiculous then you probably would not want to publish that photo.  Interestingly one thing I learned is that in the province of Quebec in Canada, photojournalists are required to get permission for photographs of subjects.  The only exception is when taking a photo of a crowd.  Quebec is the only location in North America to have such a requirement.

In summary, the key point I learned was that as a photojournalist it’s important that you put others first and think about what your intent is when capturing an image.  If your intent is personal then you probably are not shooting for the right reasons.  If you think that your photo will help others or be of importance to the public then shoot away if it’s permissible legally.


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