While many of Bluestem's fans consider its proprietor a journalist because I post a little investigative writing here from time to time, the truth is that the material posted here reflects the author's opinion.
I consider myself a blogger, not a reporter.
In responding to my reading, I prefer to use humor over outrage and from time to time--okay, most of the time--use funny photos, photoshopped images, and Ken Avidor's cartoons as I chide the objects of my posts.
Thus, after months of running Tild's PhotoShopped images of Mike Parry as Flouncette O'Parra, Emo Senator and the Belle of Waseca County (an image prompted by Parry flouncing out of a budget negotiation last summer during the state government shutdown), it might seem hypocritical of Bluestem to question the Winona Daily News' use of an obviously tinted photo of Mike Parry and Allen Quist.
In the photo posted online, both candidates look a little green around the gills. This hue isn't present in the originals--posted here--that are readily found online at Parry's official state senate webpage and the Quist for Congress website.
So what's the deal? Why should poor country bloggers have all the fun in the age of PhotoShop and Instagram?
Does the color alteration cross the indistinct line between a technical change and a change in meaning?
Bluestem would not have raised our eyebrows had the image at the top of the page appeared in the Winona Daily News' opinion page, in an article clearly identified as commentary.
But the article which the altered photographs accompany, Mud in the water: Fight turns dirty as Republican primary looms, was posted in the Local News section of the Daily News.
After finishing the article, readers might conclude on their own that the portrait of each man that emerges from Mary Juhl's reporting isn't flattering, but her piece itself is an accurate report on the primary battle. The story much like the reporting by the Associated Press, the Mankato Free Press, the New Ulm Journal, and the Rochester Bulletin. Tom Hauser used this news "narrative" about the fighting to introduced the two candidates Sunday morning on At Issue, and the two did their best to live up to the lead-in.
But that content itself should be the thing to make daintier readers get a little green around the gills, not the official portraits of the candidates that accompany a news story a week and a half from the Republican primary.
I'm told by a friend who worked in the news industry for a while that the color alteration might be the result of prepping the image for newsprint--and that the website editor may simply not have realized how creepy Parry and Quist look in the image online.
This isn't a clear cut ethical issue. Writing for The Center for Journalism Ethics at the University of Wisconsin, Stephen J.A. Ward notes in a discussion of the ethics of images:
Even with manipulation, not all issues are clear.
Photojournalists often talk about how it is permitted to change the ‘technical’ aspects of a picture such as altering slightly the tone or color of a photo. But they draw the line at any further changes. Changing the meaning or content of the image so as to mislead viewers is considered unethical.
However, the line between a technical change and a change is meaning is not always clear. An image maker can enhance the colors of a photo until it is quite unlike the original picture of the object or the event. [emphasis added]
Bluestem isn't a fan of either Republican's positions on policy; I'd like Tim Walz to be re-elected. Nonetheless, I'm not comfortable with the queasy green Parry and Quist.
Does the image cross the line between a technical change and a change in meaning? Will voters be turned off by the greenish candidates?
What do you think, readers?
Photos: Parry and Quist from the Winona Daily News website (top); Mike Parry, from his official senate webpage (middle); Allen Quist, from his website (bottom).