The reality of a fake image news norms, photojournalistic craft, and brian walski's fabricated photograph

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A few weeks into the start of the Iraq War in 2003, the front page of the Los Angeles Times featured a large photograph depicting a dramatic scene in which a British soldier motions to Iraqi civilians to stay down while a father carrying a child creeps across the dirt. The image ran in several US newspapers before it was discovered to be a composite of two different images cobbled together by the veteran photographer, Brian Walski, on his laptop in Basra. The Los Angeles Times immediately fired Walski and, along with other journalists, commented publicly on the wrongness of his actions while reasserting the soundness of their reporting. In keeping with paradigm repair, many in the US journalistic community eschewed questions surrounding the complex practices of photojournalism to instead insist on the principle of objectivity as a guiding news norm. This view omits much, including the importance of craft and the role of aesthetic criteria in photojournalism. Especially in war, journalism privileges the dramatic image to communicate conflict. From this perspective the Walski incident raised issues related to the proliferation of digital photography and editing software, the visual representation of war, and the uneasy relationship between images and reality.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)125-139
Number of pages15
JournalJournalism Practice
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jan 1 2009
Externally publishedYes


  • Brian Walski
  • Iraq
  • Journalism
  • Paradigm repair
  • Photo manipulation
  • Photojournalism

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