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Did Newsweek go too far?

Inside the September 14th issue, Newsweek featured a full-page photo of Dick Cheney holding a knife over a bloody piece of meat along with this caption:

“I am.” Dick Cheney on Fox News Sunday, in response to the question, “So even these cases where [C.I.A. interrogators] went beyond the specific legal authorization, you’re O.K. with it?”

View the photos at the NY Times “Lens” blog.

The original photograph taken by David Hume Kennerly shows Dick Cheney in his daughter’s kitchen with his family. Newsweek cropped out two-thirds of the original photo. The problem as Mr. Kennerly sees it:

However, Newsweek’s objective in running the cropped version was to illustrate its editorial point of view, which could only have been done by shifting the content of the image so that readers just saw what the editors wanted them to see. This radical alteration is photo fakery. Newsweek’s choice to run my picture as a political cartoon not only embarrassed and humiliated me and ridiculed the subject of the picture, but it ultimately denigrated my profession.

Photojournalists fight the credibility battle every day, from combating digitally faked photos to being lumped in with the paparazzi, a group of camera-carrying cretins who have no respect for anything, particularly the people they hound. In the case of my Cheney photo, Newsweek is guilty not just of blurring but of blowing up that line between tabloid-style sensationalism and honest photojournalism.

Essay: Chop and Crop, David Hume Kennerly

Kennerly argues that incidents like this contribute to the growing lack of trust people have for journalism. It certainly presents a biased view. Politics aside, if your goal as a photographer is to present an honest, objective view of the world, having your photograph cut to pieces for sensationalism is, to put it mildly, bad. On the other hand, this is nothing new—photography never tells the whole truth.

What’s your take? Did Newsweek go too far? Is this the equivalent of a Photoshop fake?

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John Watson

John is the original founder of Photodoto, but after running it for 4 years he had to focus on different things. If you're interested in what John has been up to recently, you can check is personal blog or browse his photo blog.
  • Tonya Doughty

    Yes, too far. In one single moment I went from pretty much trusting everything Newsweek says to trusting nothing. Ever again. IMO, if they’ve done something that questionable now, they have in the past and will in the future. At the very least the caption should have included the scene/setting of the photo for context. Putting the two together without explanation is irresponsible.

  • Absolutely. Photojournalists work damn hard to present people with a story that is objective and unbiased, so having an editor take the picture completely out of context to skew perception is stooping pretty low.

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