Big story up on the Front Page today about how the Economist manipulated a photograph in order to pursue an alleged narrative about the President's relationship to the BP Oil spill. It's quite the scandal, as the photo editors have removed people from the original photograph, apparently showing the President in a different light than what the original context suggests.
You may be surprised to know, though, that this isn't the first time they've manipulated photos in order to press a 'narrative'. Copious examples below:
There are pretty blatant examples of political hagiography, stripping a photograph of all its background content in order to present the subject in a favored light (or even giving him a different background altogether)...
or likewise taking one politician's image and placing it in another background in order to push the narrative that the politician is a shady dude...
So yeah, there's a reasonable discussion to be had about the art of cover photos, whether they differ in some intrinsic way from photos that accompany news stories, what responsibilities the magazine when using photographs, what constitutes ethical or unethical manipulation of images, and especially what our role as readers should be when faced with images like these.
Unfortunately that's not happening in the comments section of the FP story. where discussion has been largely divided between the belief that the Economist are engaged in deliberate mendacity and others who think there's no there there. There are some good exceptions: here, here, here, among others.
So... can we have that discussion? What do you consider a reasonable/unreasonable line for image manipulation, especially as it pertains to cover art? Are any of the covers I've linked above problematic? If so, which ones?
Another potential firebomb of a question: after reviewing the covers above, do you notice whether your instinct to find them problematic is tied to methodology (a particular set of standards about the image) or ideology (your feelings about the politics of the result)? For the heavily introspective: is the latter shaping the former?
Should the recent Obama/BP photo have been manipulated more?
What say you?
If we're ready for the advanced work, we can check out resources like the National Press Photographers Association Statement of Principle, which covers reporting rather than editorializing, but it's a good place to start.