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Click here to see the live blog transcript for this event.

By SHANNON CLARKE
Special to the RJRC

TransformationsPublicLecturePosterForWebApril22

Changes in how the public consumes news and the implications of these changes for journalism and journalism education will be the focus of an April 28 colloquium hosted by the Ryerson Journalism Research Centre.

The meeting of international scholars, journalists and educators is the first in a series of Journalism Transformations colloquia organized by the RJRC. The morning lecture, which is open to the public, will feature presentations that examine changes in local news coverage, audience behaviour and technology.

The day begins with “The Audience Revolution,” a public panel with Philip Napoli, professor and associate dean of research at Rutgers University; Kim Schrøder, professor of communications at Roskilde University in Denmark; Alexis Lloyd, creative director of The New York Times R&D Lab; and discussant, Retha Hill, a professor at Arizona State University’s Cronkite School of Journalism. Rich Gordon of Northwestern University and Carrie Brown of City University of New York will also be a part of the day’s events.

The panel discussion is an opportunity for journalists and non-journalists alike to hear how newsrooms are adapting to the evolving media landscape and the interests of their audiences.

Asmaa Malik, an associate professor of journalism at Ryerson’s School of Journalism, said the idea for the event grew out of a discussion with co-organizers Gavin Adamson and Ivor Shapiro, and other journalism professors on the changing value proposition of journalism school. As the industry changes, more prospective students (and their parents) question what comes after a journalism degree.

Malik said the job of educators now is to prepare journalism students for careers both inside and outside of traditional newsrooms: “It’s not like we’re training reporters or editors; we’re trying to train people who are fully-equipped for whatever’s ahead and we don’t know necessarily what’s coming down the pipe.”

Napoli, the principal investigator for the News Measures Research Project at Rutgers, will discuss how news has responded to audience behaviour, with an emphasis on how those changes affect local news consumption. Schrøder will contribute his research, the bulk of which was conducted before the digital era began, examining international news consumption shift away from traditional mediums to digital platforms. Alexis Lloyd will discuss her experience at The New York Times, reflecting on how technology engages news audiences and enhances journalism.

Update: Alex Watson, of The Telegraph Media Group in London, will replace Alexis Lloyd on April 28. He is The Telegraph’s head of product and a former technology journalist and led the team behind the creation of the newspaper’s new content management system

 

By STEPH WECHSLER
Special to the RJRC

(Left to right) Theirry Gervias, head of research at Ryerson Image Centre, and photojournalist and journalism instructor Peter Bregg Photo: Steph Wechsler

(Left to right) Thierry Gervias, head of research at Ryerson Image Centre, and photojournalist and journalism instructor Peter Bregg. Photo: Steph Wechsler

Digital photography and the capacity to edit pictures quickly and affordably have reopened debate over what editorializing means in images and the nature of photojournalistic neutrality, says award-winning photographer Peter Bregg.

New technologies have expanded the options for manipulating photographs, Bregg said during a panel discussion organized by the Ryerson Journalism Research Centre: “If a photo is heavily enhanced in post production is it the truth as it happened, or is the photographer trying to influence the reader?”

Bregg, winner of the 2014 Canadian Journalism Foundation’s lifetime achievement award and an instructor at Ryerson’s School of Journalism, was joined on the panel by Thierry Gervais, the head of research at the Ryerson Image Centre and curator of Dispatch: War Photographs in Print, 1854-2008. The pair discussed the evolution of war photography, photojournalism trends, neutrality and how the meaning of images can change depending on the audience and where they are displayed.

“If you’re taking a picture where half the picture [is] in sunlight and the other half [is] in shadow, in the days of film, it wasn’t worth printing usually,” Bregg said. “But with RAW [the uncompressed image file from the sensor in a digital camera or scanner], you can go in there and lighten the shadows so it looks proper. You can darken the highlights in the sunshine so it looks okay.”

The ability to alter images has led to new rules governing what can and cannot be changed, he noted. In the World Press Photo contest, for example, “entrants are not permitted to make changes in colour that result in significant changes in hue to the extent that the processed colours diverge from the original colours,” he said. The rules, however, have not put an end to debates about photo manipulation.

Major controversy, for instance, surrounded Swedish photographer Paul Hansen’s 2013 World Press Photo prize for “Gaza Burial.” Hansen’s image, which depicts a procession of grieving uncles carrying their dead nephews through an alleyway after the children were killed in an Israeli airstrike, came under fire for what critics said appeared to be excessive tonal manipulation in post-production.

Forensic experts who studied the photo found that there were, “no additions– pixel for pixel– or subtractions,” Bregg said, noting that Hansen was allowed to keep his prize. “They did find there was a fair amount of post production, meaning the guy went into Photoshop. He changed the colours a bit to make it more dramatic. Made the shadows darker.”

The rules listed on the World Press Photo website say that adjusting colour is considered acceptable so long as it doesn’t excessively divert from the original image. Minor cropping or removing spots from negatives is also permitted, but staging scenes is completely prohibited. While some of these rules are fairly straightforward, others, as Bregg and Gervais suggested, are highly subjective. The World Press Photo’s 2015 entry rules page, for instance, says that “the content of an image must not be altered. Only retouching that conforms to currently accepted standards in the industry is allowed. The jury is the ultimate arbiter of these standards.”

Bregg argued that while “the standards really haven’t changed, the technology has changed dramatically.” He noted that there is a long history of manipulating news images: “People have been doing this for years in that you went into the darkroom, and if the background didn’t suit you, you could make it darker” by exposing an area of a print for longer.

Alternatively, the practice of dodging – what Bregg said photographers once called “the hand of God,” – is an old darkroom technique that involves waving an object, like a hand, between the enlarger lamp and the paper to limit the exposure, effectively lightening the image.

Gervais pointed to even earlier examples of photo manipulation. Engravings, he noted, were used to reproduce photographs in newspapers in the 19th century, and to make what were considered improvements at the time. Early photographs had a very narrow depth of field so the background was often blurry, but wood engravings could be etched with a higher degree of background detail compared to the original photographs.

Since the wood carvings conveyed details the photographic image could not, the engravings were considered a more complete depiction of the truth, Gervais said.

Editorial discretion, he added, is exercised in every aspect of journalism: “We are always talking about photography as a mechanical process and because of that, [we assume it is] more truthful, it’s more credible. And, okay, we can say that, but of course when you write, you emphasize something and not something else. I think that’s exactly what photographers are doing in this time.”

Gervais said meaning can also be changed depending on the camera used and where and how the photograph is displayed. As an example, he pointed to “Taliban” by French photographer Luc Delahaye. Delahaye’s 2001 image of a dead Taliban fighter was produced in two ways – with a common digital single-lens reflex (SLR) camera, and a panoramic camera. The former resulted in a regular-sized image that was published in the press, while the wider-format image from the latter was hung on the walls of a gallery.

The panoramic image, he noted, tells a story the press photos could not. In it, you can see footprints around the body and that the dead man’s shoes are missing. “He’s been robbed,” said Gervais. “That’s war. That’s what they do. They kill people, take their money, take their boots and leave.

“When you look at [the] photo that has been published taken with the SLR, all of that is gone,” he said. “I saw a kind of paradox. For me, you have a big image in which you can see a lot of detail because everything was super-sharp for the art gallery, and you have a cropped image losing a lot of information in the press. What can we say about that?

“I would have thought that the more information you put the better it is in the press,” he said.

Gervais and Bregg also discussed what makes an image “good.”

To Gervais, “an image is made of lines, it’s made of tones, it’s made of colours.” But most people can’t articulate why they like or dislike an image – it’s the intangible combination of visual elements, style and subject matter that make an image a success or a failure, he said.

Bregg said that instinct factors into the sense that a photograph works. He noted that submissions to the World Press Photo contest have soared in recent years so that these days a picture has to be “different” to get a judge’s attention. And while black and white was once the photographic standard, now it’s considered novel and arty: “What’s old is new and what’s new is old,” he observed.

The panelists agreed that while there have been momentous changes in equipment, access and taste, the core principle of photojournalism – the need to accurately convey what happened – hasn’t changed.

“The technology has changed but the ethics haven’t,” said Bregg. “We’re still supposed to work with the same ethics we did 100 years ago.”

Based on guidelines listed by Word Press Photo, the Canadian Association of Journalists and the National Press Photographer’s Association.

Based on guidelines listed by Word Press Photo, the Canadian Association of Journalists and the National Press Photographer’s Association.

By ROBERT LIWANAG

Special to the Ryerson Journalism Research Centre

February 29, 2016

(Left to right) Ivor Shapiro, Lee-Ann Goodman and Jim Turk Photo by: Robert Liwanag

(Left to right) Ivor Shapiro, Lee-Ann Goodman and Jim Turk Photo by: Robert Liwanag

Neutrality in journalism limits the civil liberties of reporters and should be abandoned, said the director of Ryerson University’s Centre for Free Expression during a recent panel discussion.

Citing CNN’s two-week suspension of global affairs correspondent Elise Labott over a tweet last November, James Turk said neutrality fails to distinguish an institution’s business interests from the journalist’s public obligations. Labott’s tweet—“Statue of Liberty bows head in anguish”—was posted in response to a U.S. House of Representatives bill halting the admission of Syrian refugees. “

(Neutrality) is based on a myth that it’s possible to be disinterested, neutral and dispassionate with regard to the issues that are at the centre of one’s work,” said Turk. “Or, alternately, it recognizes that this myth is not true, but demands one act as if it were.”

Turk made his comments during a Feb. 8 panel at the Ryerson School of Journalism. The panel also included Lee-Anne Goodman, senior editor of business and Ontario at The Canadian Press, and Ivor Shapiro, chair of Ryerson’s journalism program. Bernie Lucht, former executive producer of CBC Radio’s “Ideas,” moderated the discussion.

“Large media organizations are all over the place when you add together their editorial positions and the various columnists they have,” said Turk. “To pretend that journalists, by expressing their views, are going to compromise the brand of the organization when it’s a large organization with many employees and different views is, I think, a mistake.”

Shapiro and Goodman agreed with Turk that a journalist should be judged exclusively on the professional quality of his or her work. However, Shapiro noted that a news organization should have the right to maintain its credibility and hold employees to codes of conduct.

“If I’m a beat reporter and I’m running a website covering crime in Toronto, I’m free to express my opinion that every cop in Toronto is a racist meathead or every victim of crime in Toronto is a whiner,” said Shapiro. “Is it wise for me to express that opinion? Not really.”

Goodman said neutrality should not be abandoned by journalists, citing the ongoing trial of Jian Ghomeshi as an example—Goodman said The Canadian Press’s reporter has been “meticulous about including both sides.”

“Court proceedings can be a particularly dangerous place for a journalist’s bias to be real,” she said. “Those are the sort of things that could cause mistrials.”

She did note, however, that news organizations like CNN are often paranoid about social media backlash.

“Even-handed, cool and neutral coverage is what journalists should strive for,” said Goodman. “A tweet suggesting Rob Ford is a buffoon is one thing, but you couldn’t then write a story about Rob Ford being a buffoon — a snarky tweet has nothing to do with journalism as far as I’m concerned.”

This article originally appeared on J-Source. Republished with permission.