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The Ethics of Photo and Video Journalism Case Study

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Updated: May 8th, 2022

The Case Summary

A computer soft corporation is considering a site that includes a homeless shelter as a site for a new plant. The representatives of the local newspaper are concerned about the future of the homeless people because there are no other available locations in the city for a new shelter. For this reason, they decide to create a photo report about the peculiarities of homeless people’s lives in the shelter featuring a few photos with a strong appeal to the public. However, the homeless people are not willing to pose for the photographer, and he ends up having no relevant material to offer to the editor before the deadline. An important detail in this situation is the fact the photographer sees the pain of these afflicted ones, and he is motivated to do his best to depict this pain in his works, but he finds no way to do so honestly because of the negative reaction of the homeless people. Being under pressure to complete the task, the photographer finds no other way to solve the problem but to invite his friends and ask them to dress like homeless people and pose for him so that he could take the forcible pictures of struggles that homeless people have in their efforts to survive. The editor is so impressed with the photographer’s work that he places one of his photos on the cover page of the newspaper. The rest of the images are placed inside the newspaper as a two-page photo essay revealing the problems of homeless people’s living. When the newspaper is sold, the editor’s office and the corporation are bombarded by petitions from the readers to locate the new plant elsewhere. Later that day, the corporate executives announce their decision to place their new plant in a different city.

Core Ethical Issues Addressed in the Case

The core ethical issues in this case are:

  1. Was the strategy that the photographer implemented while taking the photos approved by the peculiarities of the situation including the negative reaction from the homeless people themselves?
  2. Are the means used by the photographer in this case justified by the positive outcomes?
  3. Is it appropriate for a news photographer to voice one’s vision of the subject matter under consideration in one’s images?
  4. Should the photographer inform the newspaper management that he has faced problems preventing fulfilling the assignment ethically?
  5. Should the photographer take the images of the homeless people despite their protests?
  6. Should the photographer inform the editor about the exact strategies that have been implemented for the task?

Problems Associated with Handling Ethical Issues in the Case

This case has a variety of problems that the photographer has faced. Firstly, the need for photo material from him was urgent because the decision to build was already announced and there were only a couple of days to affect it; so, the photographer did not have an option to spend much time conducting negotiations with the homeless people to receive their agreement in an honest way. Also, the photographer was initially informed by the editor regarding the sort of images that were needed, and for that reason, he was originally put into a controversial situation by the editor himself. Thus, the probability to appear in a troublesome condition for the photographer was significant even before he went to the location of a homeless shelter.

Suggestions regarding Alternative Ethical Solutions of the Issues in the Case

The situation, in which the photographer has appeared, can be really qualified as a rather complicated one. However, there were still some options for him available to resolve the situation in a more ethically approved way. At first, the photographer might try to have better contact with the homeless people, and explain to them why it was in their best interests to allow the photographer to do his job properly. Of course, this strategy might not lead to any positive results because homeless people demonstrated their indifference, and that was a normal position for them as depression and apathy were their regular emotions. Thus, the photographer would have to inform the editor about the state of affairs to let him decide what to do next as solving such problems as the one that the photographer had faced was in the jurisdiction of the management. In informing the editor about the peculiarities of the situation, the photographer could share his own vision of it along with the pain he felt for the afflicted ones as that would help the editor to make the right decision. The profession of reporters and photographers requires sharing their own view of the world (of course, without bias and discrimination), and thus, informing the editor about the feelings that the photographer had after visiting the homeless shelter was ethically justified, just as showing those feelings to the wide public in the images.

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1. IvyPanda. "The Ethics of Photo and Video Journalism." May 8, 2022. https://ivypanda.com/essays/the-ethics-of-photo-and-video-journalism/.


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IvyPanda. "The Ethics of Photo and Video Journalism." May 8, 2022. https://ivypanda.com/essays/the-ethics-of-photo-and-video-journalism/.

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IvyPanda. 2022. "The Ethics of Photo and Video Journalism." May 8, 2022. https://ivypanda.com/essays/the-ethics-of-photo-and-video-journalism/.

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IvyPanda. (2022) 'The Ethics of Photo and Video Journalism'. 8 May.

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