Ethics of Photojournalism: Social Media Images and the Ethics of Photojournalism in the Age of Digital Circulation

This postdoctoral research project explores the current media environment where photojournalism has become part of a continuous stream of images in two ways: photojournalism produces images that end up circulating, and on the other hand, photojournalism utilizes photographs that already exist in the circulating network. These developments have lead photojournalism professionals to encounter new kinds of ethical and practical questions that have to do, for example, with verification of images and their sources, photo selection and publication profiling. This research maps out the current ethical dilemmas of news photography selection and brokering by exploring the actual work practices of news photo editors among other professionals collaborating with photojournalists.

More specifically, this project investigates international news picture agency work and the work practices of news photo editors. The focus is in the ethics of photojournalism and in the use and verification of non-professional images in news work. The research will be carried out as an ethnographic study that will be augmented with interviews. The research applies multi-sited ethnography since the data will be gathered from three research sites: a global picture agency (Thomson Reuters), a national picture agency (STT-Lehtikuva) and a non-governmental organization (Amnesty International). The research combines theoretical frameworks from visual cultural studies and journalism studies. The objectives are to examine the applicability of the theories of professional vision for journalism studies and to produce a typology of the photojournalistic work practices in the current media environment. As a result, the research presents an outlined view of today’s news image production and its ethical concerns on a global level, and meanwhile, studies its effects in a national context.

Persons involved:

Jenni Mäenpää
Postdoctoral Researcher
University of Helsinki
jenni.k.maenpaa [at]

Funding: Academy of Finland

Duration of the project: 2019–2022