British magazines draw flak over 'enhanced' photos that give models 'perfect' bodies
Flip through the paper to look at images of people in ads. Are they slim, attractive and mostly white? Discuss why those models were chosen. Do the images make students more likely to buy a product or service?
Newspapers and wire services forbid changes to news photos, besides cropping for size. Why is that important? Do manipulated ad images undermine a publication's credibility?
List other guidelines that apply to political reports, crime coverage and news articles in general. What ethical practices assure fair, balanced, accurate journalism?
Most readers of slick lifestyle, entertainment and fashion magazines assume that the flawless faces, bodies, hairstyles and decor often aren't the real deal as originally photographed. Images look polished to perfection because they are - thanks to digital retouching via PhotoShop and other electronic tools. Quick clicks on the keyboard remove flab, frown lines and blemishes on models and celebrities. The widespread practice even extends to some student portraits and other yearbook photos, which are "touched up" by commercial photo studios.
Now this open secret is the focus of discussion in the United Kingdom, where activists push for a "truth-in-publishing" ethics code to prohibit or disclose certain practices. Critics say magazines promote unrealistic female body images by making celebrities and models look slimmer - which may contribute to diet-binge cycles, other eating disorders and depression among female readers.
The British Fashion Council, which tries to improve working conditions for models, accuses editors of acting irresponsibly by promoting a "size-zero culture." It urges a voluntary code to restrict the use of computer technology to give models unrealistically perfect figures. Another suggestion is that magazines disclose when a non-advertising image is altered. The council last week requested a meeting with the 400-member Periodical Publishers Association to discuss digital enhancements in fashion photography. And in Canada, a watchdog group called Media Action wants magazines held to the same ethical standards of photojournalism as newspapers, with no digital retouching beyond red-eye reduction or color correction.
Publishing group says: "Using digital technology to adjust images is a widely used technique across all media. . . . [We] look forward to developing discussions with both the British Fashion Council as well as editors within the magazine sector." -- Kerry Neilson of the Periodical Publishers Association, United Kingdom
Media monitor says: "These visual half-lies can't be justified. Readers have a right to expect authenticity from the photos magazines disseminate. If we can't trust that the images we're looking at reflect reality, why should we credit the words that appear alongside them with any greater truth?" - Shari Graydon of Media Action in Ontario, Canada.
Editor says: "It's not up to us to recreate their nose or make them look 20 pounds thinner or 20 pounds heavier." -- Lisa Tant, editor-in-chief of Flare (Canadian fashion magazine)
Front Page Talking Points is written by
Felix Grabowski and Alan Stamm for NIEonline.com, Copyright 2013
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