Visual journalist Charles Apple spotted some photo doctoring in the photo of “the president’s national security advisers watching the attack on Osama bin Laden.” As Apple noted, a “zoom-in” on the photo reveals that a paper in front of Hillary Clinton has been blurred.
“Of course, I see why it was altered,” Apple commented in his blog. “And I don’t necessarily mind the alteration. I just didn’t know we ran photos that had been altered that way.”
iMediaEthics wrote to Apple to ask what tipped him off to the Photoshop. He explained:
“The caption tipped me off. It’s highly unusual to see something like that in a photo cutline. But then again it’s highly unusual that newspapers use pictures that have been altered by a government agency before it’s distributed. As you saw in my post, we — the print media — have been burned on that before. We’ve been teaching ourselves ethical standards that would discourage use of that kind of photo.
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“Like I said in the post, I understand why it was altered. And perhaps it was worth using it anyway. I just thought we had agreed — throughout the industry — to NOT use photos like this.”
We also asked Apple if the laptop screens pictured in the photo were blackened out, or if he thinks they were likely that way in reality. Apple responded that it “doesn’t look like it to me” because “the monitor directly in front of Hillary is reflecting, slightly, the altered document. If someone had blackened out the monitors, it would have been a mess repainting in the reflection.”
CORRECTION - May 7, 2015 8:27 AM EST
Corrected headline. Reader Jeffrey Weiss commented that at least YahooNews! disclosed the Photoshopping in the photo’s caption here. The White House did disclose that “a classified document seen in this photo has been obscured” in its caption for the photo, posted on its Flickr page. However, that disclosure was lost in many photo captions as the image was republished online and in print. See CBS News here and Washington Post report propagation here . Thanks to Weiss for pointing out the disclosure. We regret the error. We are contacting the WH press office to verify what their caption stated in the original photo release