90ish days of summer
Okay — the Newseum itself is not a failure.
The last time I visited the Newseum was in 2001, and that was before it moved and upgraded to its current location on Pennsylvania Avenue. So I can’t really qualify the renowned journalism museum as a failure if I haven’t even visited the new facility (yet).
More accurately, the Newseum visitors guide is a failure.
Here’s the cover:
The cover looks nice. It’s got D.C. traffic going through on Pennsylvania Avenue. It’s got some nice evening light. Most importantly, it’s got the First Amendment on a slab for everyone to see.
Unfortunately, the cover is a gross misrepresentation of how the Newseum actually appears.
I’ve got proof:
This photo was taken at 16mm (a very wide focal length), from the median of Pennsylvania Avenue, on May 21.
What’s the big deal?
There is a streetlight RIGHT IN FRONT OF THE FIRST AMENDMENT.
There’s almost no way to avoid that damn streetlight. Here’s the only shot I could get of the First Amendment without that streetlight slicing into it:
Also taken at 16mm.
But somehow, the photographer who shot the cover of the Newseum visitors guide didn’t get the streetlight in his photo.
Jeff and I discussed the matter when we first saw the visitors guide and noticed the streetlight was missing. We considered that perhaps the cover was an artist’s rendering, not unlike those that architects and designers draw up before a building is constructed.
But then we saw the detail in the background of the photo (example: the leafless tree, the appropriate exponential spacing between the time-elapsed cars), which you can view for yourself here. Then we searched the brochure for photo and other credits, which we found on the inside of the back cover. According to those credits, “Newseum exteriors, Annenberg Theater, Pennsylvanue Avenue Entrance, Today’s Front Pages” are by a Sam Kittner.
I googled Sam Kittner and found that he is definitely not an architect or illustrator, but rather a photographer who relies heavily on exposure trickery and post-production editing. The cover is definitely a photograph and not an illustration or artist’s rendering.
It is then very clear that the absence of a streetlight in the Newseum’s visitor guide cover is possible in only two ways:
- Kittner took the photo before the streetlight was installed.
- Kittner edited the streetlight out after taking the photo.
Option (1) is possible… except also according to the inside of the guide’s back cover, the guide was printed or at least final-edited in March 2009. So unless the city were doing some streetlight renovations before Kittner’s deadline for the March 2009 publication, the only option left is (2).
Therefore, I conclude that the front cover of the visitors guide to a first-class journalism museum has been photoshopped to remove a streetlight that in reality stands in front of the First Amendment.
If that’s not a glowing demonstration of photo editing ethics on a journalism museum publication, I don’t know what is.
What a shame.
- UPDATE (11:18 p.m. EST, May 25, 2009)
Okay, I stand corrected.
Option (1) appears to be the winner here.
As Joel has pointed out using the below image, the streetlight was not installed until at least shortly after the Newseum’s new facility was completed.
So perhaps Kittner’s photo on the museum’s visitors guide cover was taken before the streetlight was installed. At this point, I’m not going to offer any further speculation on that matter.
On a related note, a Twitter debate ensued my blog post, and several other MU journalism students (@mcavanah86, @jmsummers and @pfal) argue that the visitors guide is essentially advertising and that using photoshopped images is permissible for advertising.
I don’t disagree with that. But if Kittner’s photo were edited, I don’t think a journalism museum should have used it. Commercial purposes or not, a journalism museum should uphold the principles on which the journalism profession is based — and that includes not using photos with objects edited out of them.
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