Oct 3, 2007

James Purnell in fake photo row

Written by Andrew Pierce

Culture Secretary James Purnell, who led the Government’s attack on the BBC’s rigged phone-in competitions, is now at the centre of a faking controversy of his own.

Culture Secretary James Purnell and the doctored photo

Mr Purnell turned up too late for a photo-shoot to promote a new development at a Tameside hospital, so he told the organisers to doctor the picture with fellow MPs to look like he had been there.

The photograph, with Mr Purnell grinning at the edge of the group, was then published in the local press, which was oblivious to the cheating.

Local MPs David Hayes, Tom Levitt and Andrew Gwynne all turned up in time for the photo call, organised by the Tameside and Glossop Hospitals NHS Trust.

A spokesman for the Trust said: “We decided to take a photograph of Mr Purnell in the same spot very shortly after and merge it with the earlier photograph, to which Mr Purnell kindly consented.”

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5 Responses to “James Purnell in fake photo row”

  1. MilitaryPolice Says:

    Seems like the article’s author has an axe to grind. I fail to see how doctoring a publicity photo (he was there, after all) is an ethical problem. When I look at the photo, I see a group of people showing their support for the hospital’s new development. How is that false? The author of this piece might as well complain about retouching skin blemishes. It certainly does not compare in any way to rigged phone-in competitions.

  2. blinder Says:

    Don’t US news photographers get sacked if they manipulate the news??
    This is cut and dried wrong and needs to be seen as such. There can be no middle ground on adding or subtracting information from a NEWS photograph.
    The correct photo (the CORRECT information) should be available to the public for the public to be able to trust the news.
    Photoshop is an excellent tool but ethical guidelines keep being crossed as more and more news breaches become apparent.

  3. Martin Evening Says:

    I suppose you could say this is all a storm in a tea cup, but if you read through the full article, the key point here is that Mr Purnell recently spoke out against fakery in the media:

    “Only two weeks ago Mr Purnell delivered a keynote speech in which he censured the BBC and other broadcasters for jeopardising public trust over fixed phone-in competitions, which have resulted in fines of £50,000 for the corporation and £2 million for GMTV.”

    The media have rightfully had fun highlighting other examples where politicians’ photos being doctored – there was another recent case of the slogan on a banner that appearedin a photo being altered to show different wording.

    As for sacking the photographer, well this was a publicity photo shot and not a commissioned news photograph. The message here to editors should be ‘use supplied publicity photos at your own risk’.


  4. jimstewart Says:

    A noticeable aspect of the extensive coverage this story received in UK media was the total absence of terms such as “photoshopped” or “photoshopping” in reportage and discussion (at least on BBC and C4 News and Newsnight).

    Seems the warnings from Adobe’s Legal Dept reported here last May have hit home in the UK newsrooms! Such terms were prominent in coverage of photo-doctoring until quite recently…

    (Of course, that means an overall drop in “buzz” re the app for the Marketing Dept)

  5. rproulx Says:

    Folks, it’s a freakin’ publicity PR picture! It’s NOT a news photo taken by a photojournalist and sold as such.

    Supplied corporate and government promo pix are NEVER held to the same standard as press pics. It’s like telling nudie mags to stop airbrushing the gals and guys, or removing a few wrinkles from an aging candidate. PR pic are NOT news and any serious news organization accepts and runs them as such needs a reality check. They’re either seriously stupid or playing the part because they think folks are dumb enough to take their complaint seriously – or at least to generate controversy and/or hits to their website..

    Next time they get a PR piece (or an AD photo) are they going the insist it’s un-retouched? This whole issue is seriously dumb.


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