Welcome to journalism’s newest ethical nightmare: digital enhancement
This article appeared in the Washington Journalism Review, the Boston Globe and the Sacramento Bee in 1988-89.
Afew years ago I wandered into one of those seminars touting the wonders that digital technological would someday bring to photography. Up on the screen, a surreal slide show was in progress: Joan Collins was sitting provocatively on President Reagan’s lap. Click. Joan was now perching, elflike, on the president’s shoulder. Click. Reagan now had a third eye. Click. Now he was bald. Click. And on it went.
The man from Scitex, one of the high-tech outfits that makes these machines, was saying that computers could now alter the content of photographs in virtually any way. It’s all done electronically, with no trace of tampering.
The audience, clearly dazzled, tossed off a dozen or so questions about whether the machines could do this or that. Finally, a hand shot up. “Nobody’s said a word about the potential for abuse here. What about the ethics of all this?”