Ethics in Photojournalism: Past, Present, and Future

Dan Bersak

Dan Bersak

Like writers and editors, photojournalists are held to a standard of ethics. Each publication has a set of rules, sometimes written, sometimes unwritten, that governs what that publication considers to be a truthful and faithful representation of images to the public. These rules cover a wide range of topics such as how a photographer should act while taking pictures, what he or she can and can’t photograph, and whether and how an image can be altered in the darkroom or on the computer. This ethical framework evolved over time, influenced by such things as technological capability and community values; and it is continually developing today. This thesis details how photojournalism’s ethical system came to be, what the system looks like today, and where it will go in the future. The first chapter chronicles the history of ethics in photojournalism. The second chapter describes current ethical practices through specific case studies. The third and final chapter builds upon the first two and uses technology and policy to examine the trajectory of photojournalistic ethics.

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