Thursday, November 02, 2006

SF Chronicle caves. Will they stand up for their photojournalists?

Jim Romenesko
Poynter Online

Dear Jim:

I'm kind of sick of standing up for journalists and photojournalists when their own management won't back them up when they are being accused of journalism malpractice. I wrote you last week that Melanie Morgan of ABC Disney radio station KSFO accused the SF Chronicle of purposely manipulating a photo of California Congressman Richard Pombo to make him look "like a black man." I wrote the Chronicle as well. Want to know what happened?

It appears that instead of standing up for their photographer and demanding a retraction of the accusation, they just CHANGED THE PHOTO with no explanation. Luckily I saved the BEFORE photo.

Pombo "before" photo

AFTER PHOTO (from this SF Gate link as of Oct. 31)
Pombo "AFTER" photo

Most likely the first photo was a simple mistake in image processing judgment. The entire photo might have been fine on a Mac or in Firefox but dark in IE on a PC. I could understand that, it happens. It's been over 20 years since the Chronicle started printing color photos and they still have color photo registration errors in their print versions. Those errors make some people look like they have 6 sets of eyes. I don't assume malicious intent or that they want Republicans to look like aliens so they will lose an election.

Morgan accused the SF Chronicle of one of the big sins of modern journalism, and the Chronicle acted like an abused child hoping to avoid being hit for something they didn't even do. But without explaining WHAT HAPPENED and WHY, the accuser can now think, "AH HA! See, I was RIGHT! They DID manipulate the photo on purpose! The liberal media tried to help a Democrat and I caught them!"

I'm not privy to the inside emails at the Chronicle. For all I know they demanded a personal apology from Morgan and got it. Maybe they are preparing a defamation lawsuit since she has a pattern of wrongly accusing newspapers of photo manipulation. But by not explaining, people are left to wonder, "Was she right? Did the Chronicle try and make Pombo look sinister ala the extra dark OJ Simpson image on the cover of Time?" and THAT is why publishers MUST stand up for their journalists and photojournalists to those who would defame them and accuse them of biased motives for things that have an innocent explanation.

I think it's bad enough that Morgan has accused the Chronicle of violating its photojournalist standards, but what is especially illuminating, is the underlying attitude Morgan portrays in her comment. Listen again and tell me, who's the one with a race problem here?

I guess this shouldn't surprise me especially when in the past Melanie Morgan broadcast on public airwaves that nine journalists and one editor should be hanged and that didn't warrant an official request for an apology. What are you waiting for, more of her listeners to see journalists as the enemy and photojournalists as liars?


Gaia said...


But who knows....many Republicans
may not want to vote for a 'black guy'.
This must be the method in Melanie's Madness.

It's a shame more people don't do their homework.

If you check out Pombo on Wikipedia...
the page is full of corruption allegations.

Is that the kind of 'Dirty Leadership' California wants?
I don't think so.

6:12 PM  
Jim said...

I wonder if a republican leaning paper had made the man look darker would there be cries from leftists that they are trying to pander to the black vote? While I think alot of what you have said about Morgan is legitimate I think this in particular being over played. If there is a bias or even a percieved bias,(that she is trying to "reveal") then it's fair game. The fact that they changed the picture is to their credit IMO. They are at least attempting to appear unbiased. I'm not sure they could defend the journlist since the journalist apparently could care less about the quality of the printed photos.

10:49 AM  
Rich said...

This post has been removed by a blog administrator.

12:04 PM  
Rich said...

It's not that they selectively made him darker, but they didn't make a simple Levels call. The difference seems to be just a gamma change in the Levels filter in Photoshop.

It would be hard to claim it wasn't just a lack of tonal correction.

12:06 PM  
spocko said...

Rich; I'm unclear what you are saying.

It's obvious to me that the entire photo was changed, which would lead me to believe that Morgan's claim that they purposely just make Pombo darker is clearly false.

12:53 PM  
Interrobang said...

Spocko: Rich is saying that the people who put the picture into camera-ready format screwed up the colour correction, which is applied generally over the whole photo using Photoshop. He's agreeing with you, in other words.

2:13 PM  
PTCruiser said...

Why it's as clear as day to me now. The first photo is obviously a picture of African Americans while the second is a completely different picture of several Caucasians. I don't see what all the fuss is about.

5:16 PM  
Rich said...

Sorry I meant to say that they didn't color correct the entire picture. If the rest were corrected instead of Pombo that woulda been more interesting, and perhaps slanderous to black people.

4:33 PM  

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