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|| News Item: Posted 2006-07-30

Leading Off: A Matter of Trust
By Robert Hanashiro, Sports Shooter

Photo by

Looking at a news photograph, a reader may now have to ask: "Is that photojournalism? Or is that Photoshop-alism?"
An old Chinese proverb goes something like this:
"Fool me once
Shame on you.
Fool me twice
Shame on me."

(Or was it Scotty on the old "Star Trek" series that said this?)

Journalism comes down to one very simple, but important thing. Trust.

Our job as journalists is to educate, enlighten, entertain and inform the public. For us to do this, we must have trust of the people who see our work and those who are the subjects of our stories.

A couple of recent incidents have caused me to think about trust and how perilous a thing it is.

Whenever a journalist becomes the news, instead of just reporting it, it can only mean bad things … usually the further eroding of our credibility and standing with the public. It seems every week there is something on the news gossip website that further tarnishes our reputation and takes another bite out of journalism's credibility.

People must be able to look at our work and trust that it is what it appears to be: An accurate depiction of the story we are telling.

Whether it is manipulating a news situation, taking a quote out of context, combining multiple images to make one or altering the content, it casts doubt on the story we are trying to tell. Can readers expect to trust us after they just read about another incident of digital manipulation?

Looking at a news photograph, a reader may now have to ask: "Is that photojournalism? Or is that Photoshop-alism?"

Journalism isn't about winning awards and interpretation shouldn't mean drastically changing the content of a scene to match what you "see" versus what the camera "sees".

Another situation that I feel lowers journalism's creditability is subtler, but is as dangerous as manipulating a photo. When journalists go on assignment --- whether it's a news story, a feature, a long-term project or for that matter even a ballgame --- the subjects have a degree of trust in us. This is where a fine line exists, but one that I've seen crossed too times.

Do we put out photos that are not flattering or maybe just plain embarrassing … when they have nothing to do with the story we're covering?

Recently I've seen photographs published that cast its subjects in a (unnecessarily?) humorous and embarrassing light. Most times it's the result of a fleeting moment captured, an angle or juxtaposition. One recent (in)famous example of this, was a photograph of the winner of an LPGA tournament kissing a trophy that at a certain angle had a distinct phallic shape.

Was it really necessary to transmit that photo? Was the photo edited, captioned and sent as a sort of "photo joke" for editors and colleagues? Or did a photographer and editors simply miss what the photo looked like? Either way, that image "made the rounds", both on the Internet and talk shows, causing the golfer and the LPGA a lot of embarrassment. Was this photograph critical to the coverage of this event? Was it storytelling?

As a picture editor friend told me the other day when we were discussing this: "There are photos that we have that the shooters send just for visual entertainment. But they don't make it to our archives, let alone the publication. And yes, I do remember the trophy kiss...the funny thing about that was the only way it looked phallic was the angle she was holding it...straight on, it looked quite normal. But I would have never even shot that photo, because I hate trophy kiss photos." (

The digital age and the Internet have helped created this situation, as embarrassing/humorous photographs often take on a life of their own … finding their way onto hundreds of websites and insuring that they can be viewed over and over. It's one thing to have a photo make fun of you on Letterman or Leno, it's gone in a couple of seconds. But on the Internet that photograph lives on forever.

Because everything is now shot on digital and we all have high-speed connections, it's easier to put out photos "just for the hell of it". I know I tend to "over-edit" and transmit more photos from an assignment than I really need to ... just because I can! And with that in mind, some photographers think it's ok to send out photos that maybe shouldn't see the light of day ---because of their or suggestive nature --- trying to get a laugh out of colleagues.

And it's interesting how these photos find their way onto websites like

(Of course one could argue that entertainment journalism lives off of "embarrassing moments" as websites like and prove every day.)

Most news organizations have guidelines addressing the do's and don'ts on the use of the cloning tool and dodging/burning. Ethics contracts and statements regarding conflicts of interest are the norm at many publications. But I think in both of the situations I have outlined, plain old COMMON SENSE should be a journalist's guiding light.

No, despite what Ronal Taniwaki likes to say, I am not a "fun hater" … I enjoy a joke or funny photo just like everyone. But not at the expense of journalism's credibility and the trust of our readers and subjects.

* * *

Please indulge me (a little more than usual) while I do a little self-promotion …

There is still room in our very cool hands-on, shooting workshop, the Sports Shooter Academy.

SSA III will be held Nov. 1 - 5, 2006 in Orange County, CA and features NCAA Division I sports (basketball, volleyball, water polo and soccer), horse racing, beach volleyball, boxing and portrait and arena lighting classes.

Faculty members include So Cal freelance photographer Matt Brown, LA Times staff photographers Wally Skalij and Myung J. Chun, Getty's Donald Miralle, Orange County Register staff photographer Michael Goulding … and yours truly.

The Sports Shooter Academy is geared to college students and working professionals that want to improve their sports photography, learn some new "tricks of the trade" through actually covering real sports events and nightly critique sessions with the faculty.

SSA III is being made possible through the generous sponsorship of Samy's Camera and Think Tank Photo. Awards will be given for the best photo and best portfolio made during the workshop.

Believe me, this is a unique educational event, jam-packed with not only opportunities to make great sports photos … but also a chance to have your worked evaluated by some of the top photographers working today. SSA III also is a place to meet and have a fun time with other cool photographers from all over the US and Canada.

For more information about SSA III and to download an application form, check out these links

Several videos made during Sports Shooter Academy II by the Los Angeles Times' Myung Chun have been posted on

If you have any questions about the Sports Shooter Academy that the above links don't answer … drop me an email!

* * *

Sports Shooter v.93 features an interesting "In The Bag" feature by Francis Gardler on large format photography. The San Francisco Chronicle's Kim Komenich continues our look at alternative ways photography can be incorporated into websites. John Todd recounts the recent World Cup in Germany.

Matt Brown kicks of the Sports Shooter Newsletter's first installment of a new regular feature, "The Photographers' Toy Box" with a user's report on the new Nikon D2Xs.

One of the reasons I started this newsletter was to give photographers a chance to tell their stories and Ashley Franscell does just that, writing about her experience on recent assignment in El Salvador.

So sit back, adjust the contrast on your monitor, turn up the volume on that new Linda Ronstadt/Ann Savoy CD "Adieu False Heart" and enjoy reading Sports Shooter v.93.

As always, thanks to Special Advisors & Contributors: Deanna & Emma Hanashiro, Brad Mangin, Rick Rickman, Rod Mar, Vincent Laforet, Trent Nelson, Jason Burfield, Grover Sanschagrin, Joe Gosen, The Photodude, Reed Hoffmann, Anne Ryan, Darren Carroll and Bob Deutsch.

Thanks this month to: Francis Gardler, John Todd, Kim Komenich and Ashley Franscell.

I welcome any comments, corrections, suggestions and contributions. Please e-mail me at

The Sports Shooter Archives as well as tons of cool resources and information can be accessed through the Internet at

Use of the content of the Sports Shooter Newsletter is prohibited without the expressed written permission of The Big Kahuna and the author of the article.

Opinions, rants, raves, insults and praise whether intend or not, are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Sports Shooter and public sensibilities.
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Contents copyright 2020, Do not republish without permission.
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