Alt Title

An investigation into ethical evaluation of selected photojournalism situations by college photojournalism students and members of the IPPA

Publication Date


Document Type


First Advisor

Hamilton, Hallie J.

Degree Name

M.A. (Master of Arts)

Legacy Department

Department of Journalism


Photojournalism--Moral and religious aspects; Photographs--Psychological aspects; Journalistic ethics


This investigation into photojournalism ethics was designed to compare and contrast the evaluations of certain ethically questionable photographic situations by two groups, members of the Illinois Press Photographers Association and photojournalism juniors and seniors of Northern Illinois University. The problem was that, as opposed to the traditional theory of the press performing in the ultimate public interest, critics argued that the 20th century theory was one in which a photographer uses his skill to show what he wants, whether it exists or not. Also, few books and articles have focused on the subject since the early 1930's, where earlier literature was filled with discussions of morality. Unlike previous studies dealing with the editor's responsibility, the public's opinion and legality, this study concentrates on the ethical responsibility and the actions of the photojournalist. The 216 members of the Illinois Press Photographers Association and the 61 declared junior and senior photojournalism majors at Northern Illinois University at the time of the study were mailed questionnaires asking them to answer a series of questions in evaluation of 10 photographic case model situations. The case model situations involved different types of behavior, including morals, graphic details, invasion of grief, personal involvement in a situation and manipulation. A total of 31 percent of the 275 prospective respondents answered the survey, or 30 percent of the IPPA membership and 35 percent of the student population. The results indicated that, in general, there were no major differences of opinion between the two groups in the study, professionals and students. Certain statistical correlations were drawn for seven specific cases in the study on the basis of the demographic questions of sex and years of experience in photojournalism when answering the survey questions. The seven pertinent cases included photos of an airlines crash victim, a child’s funeral, the sexual assault/murder of a young boy, a suicidal leap from a bridge, manipulation of a nuclear plant photo, substituting an old photo for a new event and staging a scene. The results of the study were deemed important because of the apparent similarity in ethical values of the two groups studied. The study also is the basis for future photojournalism ethical studies. In addition, the high return of questionnaires indicates an interest and a need for this type of an evaluation.


Includes bibliographical references.||Includes illustrations.


vi, 109 pages




Northern Illinois University

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