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A look at photo editing

by Jim Beckel and Nate Billings Modified: April 18, 2013 at 12:20 pm •  Published: January 14, 2009

 

Marching to chants of  "Free, Free Palestine", about 200  people gathered at the Oklahoma state Capitol Monday, Jan. 5, 2009, to protest Israel's attack on the Gaza strip. Some protesters carried signs, some waved flags and some held small children as they shouted their support of a Palestine free of Israeli intervention at the noon rally. In middle is Ghassan Dabbour, Oklahoma City. BY JIM BECKEL, THE OKLAHOMAN
Marching to chants of "Free, Free Palestine", about 200 people gathered at the Oklahoma state Capitol Monday, Jan. 5, 2009, to protest Israel's attack on the Gaza strip. Some protesters carried signs, some waved flags and some held small children as they shouted their support of a Palestine free of Israeli intervention at the noon rally. In middle is Ghassan Dabbour, Oklahoma City. BY JIM BECKEL, THE OKLAHOMAN

This photo appeared on the front page of The Oklahoman: Marching to chants of  “Free, Free Palestine,” about 200 people gathered at the Oklahoma state Capitol Monday, Jan. 5, 2009, to protest Israel’s attack on the Gaza strip. Some protesters carried signs, some waved flags and some held small children as they shouted their support of a Palestine free of Israeli intervention at the noon rally. BY JIM BECKEL, THE OKLAHOMAN

Staff photographer Jim Beckel contributes this look at the process of how pictures get picked for the newspaper and some of the concerns of the profession:

A question I am frequently asked is “Do you choose the photos that go in the paper?”  I always answer the same, “Yes and No.” Let me explain. At The Oklahoman, photographers edit their own images from a shoot. If I shoot 50 images at an event, I have the opportunity to select the images that I want to submit to the editors to be considered for publication. The editor(s) and page designers in charge of layout make the final determination as to which photo(s) will run. I bring this up because of a photo I took  Jan. 5, 2009.

I had been assigned to cover a rally at the state capitol. Supporters of a free Palestine would gather at noon on the building’s south plaza to voice their concerns about recent attacks by Israel’s military in the Gaza Strip.  At the peak of the protest, around 200 people had gathered; most carried hand printed signs. The protest was peaceful. Lots of signs, lots of chanting, group prayer at the end of the rally. Lots of opportunities for photos. I returned to the paper, edited my images and turned in eight photos to my editors.

Late in the afternoon, editors from each department gather in a large conference room just off the main area of the newsroom where they examine stories, photos and graphics available for the next day’s newspaper. I don’t attend that meeting. Doug Hoke, the paper’s director of photography, represents the photo department.

When the meeting had ended, I learned  one of my photos from the rally had generated a spirited discussion regarding the photograph’s appropriateness for use on the front page. The photo shows a man marching, shouting while he leads a group of protestors carrying signs. Behind him is a sign held high with a graphic depiction of a swastika printed atop the Star of David. It was decided this photo was too inflammatory and another image was selected for the front page. The photo that appeared the next morning, seen at the top of this post, shows a wider view with more protestors and more signs. The sign in question can be seen, but it is obscured somewhat by another banner.  The newspaper’s website, NewsOK.com, did use the photo in question that very day with reporter Michael McNutt’s coverage. The photo can now be seen as part of a gallery of photos posted from that event.

Marching to chants of  "Free, Free Palestine", about 200  people gathered at the Oklahoma state Capitol Monday, Jan. 5, 2009, to protest Israel's attack on the Gaza strip. Some protesters carried signs, some waved flags and some held small children as they shouted their support of a Palestine free of Israeli intervention at the noon rally. In middle is Ghassan Dabbour, Oklahoma City. BY JIM BECKEL, THE OKLAHOMAN
Marching to chants of "Free, Free Palestine", about 200 people gathered at the Oklahoma state Capitol Monday, Jan. 5, 2009, to protest Israel's attack on the Gaza strip. Some protesters carried signs, some waved flags and some held small children as they shouted their support of a Palestine free of Israeli intervention at the noon rally. In middle is Ghassan Dabbour, Oklahoma City. BY JIM BECKEL, THE OKLAHOMAN

This image appeared on NewsOK.com, but was not used in the newspaper. BY JIM BECKEL, THE OKLAHOMAN

My job is to cover events,  producing  photos that document, inform and  hopefully, engage the reader. People with much higher levels of authority and responsibility than I are charged with the task of selecting images that are deemed appropriate for our newspaper. They consider a myriad of factors before choosing photos and stories hat appears on the front page.

Having explained the process, I am curious which photo you, the reader, would have chosen.  Is the photo in question in poor taste? Is it, in fact, inflammatory? To what extent should a newspaper be concerned with a person’s or group’s sensibilities? Are we too sensitive or not sensitive enough? Would you have made the decision to publish the photo? It’s not as easy as it may seem at first.  We are obligated  to be responsible journalists. Critics accuse those of us in the media of being totally irresponsible, inconsiderate and uncaring. Many of the things I am assigned to cover with my camera are not  pleasant, visually or emotionally. But I am certain of
this–I don’t create news, I report it so readers can see it.  That is my job. This is my profession. Share your thoughts. What would you do in this situation?

To see a gallery of Jim’s photos from the rally, click here.

-Nate Billings


by Jim Beckel
Photographer
Jim Beckel been a member of The Oklahoman's photo staff for 25 years. During that time, he and his cameras have covered virtually every type of news and feature story imaginable, traveling to all regions of Oklahoma to document events and provide...
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by Nate Billings
Photographer
Nate Billings never planned to become a photojournalist. He took pictures as a hobby growing up and worked as an assistant for his father, a commercial still and video photographer, but chose to study English Literature in college. Billings did...
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