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LA Times Photojournalist Fired for Using Photoshop to Manipulate War Image

Brian Walski, a photojournalist covering the war in Iraq for the L.A. Times was fired for combining two images in Photoshop - reportedly to achieve a "better composition".

The image appeared on the front page of the L.A. Times and was sent to other papers in the Tribune Co. newspaper group appearing on the front page of at least one other paper.

The photograph showed a British soldier motioning to a crowd of Iraqis while pointing an automatic weapon at a man holding a baby. The problem is this dramatic scene only existed in the photographer's composite - it never happened.

The alteration was discovered when an employee of the Hartford Courant, another Tribune paper that also ran the image on it's cover, noticed people in the background who appeared twice in the image.

Los Angeles Times managing editor Dean Baquet was quoted in The Washington Post that "the firing was a painful and easy decision", and that Walski's reason for compositing was to "improve the picture for aesthetic reasons."

Walski's case was a clear violation of the Times guidelines and most would call it a clear ethics violation. But there is growing debate within the media as to what level of image manipulation is acceptable. In December of 2002 the Poynter Institute, a well-respected journalism school, tackled the subject in their online magazine . Magazine and newspaper cover images are routinely altered. These alterations run the gamut from cropping and color correction changes to improve the look of the image to extending backgrounds and taking out unwanted objects and blemishes. Similar changes are often made to images that appear within magazines and newspapers. 

No one in the publishing industry denies this. But since the changes are made to improve image reproduction no one sees this as a problem. What is troublesome is the fact that the line between "touching up" an image and altering it can get blurry.

During the O.J. Simpson trial both Time and Newsweek chose to run Simpson's police mugshot on the cover. The two competing magazines having identical covers would have been unusual enough, but Time chose to significantly alter the photo by darkening both the image and Simpson's skin. The effect was to make him look far more sinister. Time defended the alterations by calling the cover a "photo illustration."

The same thing occurred again in 1997. This time it was Newsweek's turn to do the explaining. Both magazines ran cover photos of Kenny and Bobbi McCaughey, the parents of the McCaughey septuplets. Unfortunately someone at Newsweek felt that the cover would look better if the septuplets had a more attractive mother - so they digitally altered Bobbi McCaughey's teeth. When called on it the magazine apologized for the manipulation.

New technologies even make it possible to alter broadcast images on television. In January of 2000 journalists howled over a decision at CBS to superimpose it's logo over the NBC logo on a Times Square video screen sponsored by the rival network. Lest you think that altering reality on a live broadcast is uncommon just watch a major league baseball game. Those rotating ads that appear behind the batter are dropped in digitally.

It has always been possible to alter photographs. But altering prints and negatives was skilled work that few did well and there were almost always telltale signs. Today a photographer who's good with Photoshop can take digital photos, alter them on their laptop, and email them to an unsuspecting editor who has no way of knowing the images were altered. Walski was caught because cloning people in the image is such an obviously boneheaded move. The real surprise is that this obviously doctored image went so far before being detected.

You can see both original images and the altered image on the L.A. Times Web site at:

Sources: L.A. Times, The Washington Post, USC Annenberg Online Journalism Review, New York Post, Poynter Online

Kodak Aquires Applied Science Fiction

On May 12th Kodak announced the acquisition of Applied Science Fiction (ASF). Kodak plans to integrate technologies from ASF into it's photo kiosks to create widespread automatic picture machines for film and digital camera users.

Products from ASF include rapid film processing technology, Digital PIC, and the Digital ICE suite of tools.  Kodak will integrate Applied Science Fiction's technologies and personnel into its Consumer Imaging business. According to Kodak specific details about product plans are still under development.

Lexar Begins Shipping 2GB 40X CompactFlash Cards

Starting the first week of May Lexar began shipping 2GB 40X-speed Write Acceleration (WA) cards capable of a minimum sustained write speed of 6MB/s and up to a maximum write speed of 7MB/s or more. 

Write Acceleration increases throughput when the cards are used with WA enabled cameras.

The 2GB Type I cards are expected to have a retail price of $699.99. 

Bush Seeks to Extend Internet Tax Ban

The Bush administration is asking Congress to extend the current ban on Internet taxes that will expire in November of this year.


Many states have eyed the Internet as a source of new tax revenue and a way to close budget gaps. But in the wake of the Dot Com implosion three years ago the imposition of Web taxes has the potential to kill off struggling Internet companies who are only now beginning to show signs of recovery. 


Lighttools Releases New Stretch Frames


Lighttools Soft Egg Crates have become standard equipment for still photographers and cinematographers as time saving tools for blocking and shaping soft light. 


Lighttools has introduced Stretch Frames to eliminate sagging of the Soft Egg Crates even when used on large lightbanks.


For more information on Soft Egg Crates and Stretch Frames go to Lighttools Web site at


ProFotoSoftware Releases PFS Image Batch Processor 
for Windows

ProFotoSoftware makes shareware for photographers. Their new batch processor for Windows allows photographers to batch (do an operation on multiple files at once) resizing, renaming, format conversions, and image rotations.


For more information on ProFotoSoftware check out their Web site at


Nikon View 6.0 Released & Firmware Upgrades Announced

Nikon has released version 6.0.1 of it's Nikon View software which ships with all of it's digital cameras. The new version ads red eye correction, color management, CD creation, HTML page creation for images, and batch renaming. Nikon View 6.0.1 is available for both Windows and Mac from Nikon's Web site


New firmware upgrades for the Coolpix 5700, 4500 and 4300  cameras are available on Nikon's Web site in the Firmware Updates section.

Intel Predicts 1.5 Billion PCs with Fast Internet 
Connections by 2010

During an annual strategy briefing for Wall Street analysts Intel President Paul Otellini predicted more than 1.5 billion computers, or three-fifths of all computers sold, will have high-speed Internet connections by the end of this decade

Currently about two-thirds of U.S. workplace computers have high-speed connections, but less than one-third of residential users have connections faster than basic 56k dial-up connections over standard phone lines, according to data from Web Site Optimization LLC in Ann Arbor, Mich.

135 Charged with Federal Web Crimes

135 people have been charged and more than $17 million seized in a crackdown on investment swindles, identity theft and other forms of Internet fraud and abuse in an effort to combat the fast-growing online crime that now accounts for more than half of all fraud complaints according to Attorney General John Ashcroft.

Those arrested stand accused of a variety of crimes, from setting up fake banking websites to collect the account numbers of unsuspecting customers to surreptitiously taping and selling unreleased movies. 

For the full story on Wired News click here.

Not Photography or Internet News, But We Couldn't Resist

A shocking conclusion has come out of a study funded by Britain's Economic and Social Research Council - Politicians Lie! 

Among the other shocking conclusions in the study were that “Politicians need to be more honest about lying.” and politicians are more likely to lie when asked about such things as extra marital affairs.

It seems the U.S. Government no longer has a monopoly on funding studies of the painfully obvious. Cheers! 

You can read the full story on the MSNBC Web site - just in case you hadn't figured this out on your own.

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