Posted in Photography

How much photo editing is acceptable for news stories?

This week’s Digital Newsroom course lecture focuses on photo manipulation in news. Photography is a key visual in news stories and must uphold the same ethical standards as written stories, or broadcast reports.

This means they must be:

  • Factual
  • Objective
  • Relative to the story
  • Not manipulated

There is a difference between photo editing and photo manipulation. Manipulation is simply altering the truth of the photo. Photo editing tools are easily accessible, whether you are in the field of journalism or not. With almost everything on the web including some kind of filter, or edit, it is so easy to try and create the perfect photo. This is not OK when it comes to news photos.

If perfection is what you seek, then it would be wise to come up with creative angles and shots while you are actively taking photos. Once the shot is taken, consider it the final product.

In news, you do not want to enhance, or manipulate the truth to the image. Would you do this while writing a story? For example, would you alter a quote in hopes to get the best reaction? No. Well, the same goes for images. News photos are the visual story, they are depicting truth.

I recently met with an officer at the Pittsburg Police Department to discuss the upcoming surveillance cameras that were to be added to the freeway to deter crime. I was able to capture some good shots of their camera room, as well as the gun buy back program, which had been going on at the PD that Saturday morning.

Below is a photo of an officer meeting with a resident who was selling an old rifle. Again, because news photos require very little editing, I spent little time with this particular photo.

I use PicMonkey, which is a great free photo editing tool. I began with a small crop, which closed in on the two individuals and cut out some unneeded dead space. Next, I used a filter called Burst, which simply makes the colors pop. The image doesn’t have too much eye-catching color, so this helps brighten up the greenery in the background.

And that’s it.

A nice clean image, that depicts what happened that day at Pittsburg’s Anonymous Gun Buy Back Program.


Among all of the photos I take, news is my favorite. You have to really strategize during the photo taking process and think about creative ways to make the photos look compelling, while telling the story and without depending on photo editing tools. This is when skill comes into play. Sometimes, simply being at the right place at the right time will create the most compelling images to accommodate your story.

The process is unpredictable and that is what makes the art of photo journalism so captivating.

How do you feel about photo editing when it comes to news?


Posted in California News, US News

Behind Melania Trump’s speech

Cleveland— Americans tuned into the 2016 Republican National Convention July 18 and witnessed history. From what seemed to be a heartfelt speech, Melania Trump has received a ton of media attention since then and not in a way she would have hoped for.

It was not until an independent journalist shared on Twitter that it was plagiarized, that it went viral.

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How could this happen?

According to the New York Times, a long time speech writer for the Trump organization had sat with Melania to draft the speech. Trump expressed her admiration of Michelle Obama to the writer, Meredith McIver, 65, and read parts of the first lady’s 2008 speech.

McIver claims the plagiarism was unintentional and has taken the blame for the incident.

According to the New York Times, McIver said she had inadvertently left portions of the Obama speech in the final draft, “this was my mistake. Mr. Trump told me that people make innocent mistakes and that we learn and grow from these experiences.”

Although McIver planned to resign, the Trumps did not deem this necessary, according to the report. At this time, no legal action has been taken against neither McIver, or the Trumps.

CNN reports that amidst the controversy, Melania Trump’s website has been taken down. While Trump advises that it contained inaccuracies, others believe it to be much more than that.

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The Huffington Post reports, “The disappearance of Trump’s elaborate website comes just days after news outlets, raised serious questions about whether she actually earned an undergraduate degree in architecture from the University of Ljubljana,” to which her online biography claimed she had. In the unofficial biography, Melania Trump: The Inside Story, includes details on how she left college to pursue her modeling career.

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Melania Trump has yet to address the above accusations.

Posted in California News

All eyes on Highway 4

You are in the car, driving on the freeway, the usual routine. The radio plays in the background as you watch the road and reflect on the day. Look at the time, you’re late. You switch lanes to get ahead and notice a loud sound and the car behind you begins to swerve. You check your rear-view mirror. Are they drunk? What just happened? 

You keep driving.

A young woman has just been shot and killed.

The right to bear arms has been a debatable topic, as the same weapons used for protection and security, are the same weapons that are used to claim innocent lives and damage families. In the wrong hands, the consequences are irreversible.

According to KRON 4, “there have been 24 shooting incidents in the past six months on East Bay Highways.” With five of those incidents being in the Pittsburg and Antioch area, just in the last two months. As a result, the City Council has created a call to action.

The council received a grant of $100,000 for six cameras, which have been said to cover the east and west ends of Highway 4. With a view of all lanes and the capability to zoom in on moving objects, the high quality cameras will serve as a deterrent to assault of any kind.

In a city filled with surveillance, over 150 cameras, will they prove to be effective?

Ten monitors display live footage captured from 150 surveillance cameras throughout The City of Pittsburg. Photo by Larena Hernandez

Sergeant Keefe, with the Pittsburg Police Department, is positive that the cameras will help prevent assault on the freeway and solve investigations.

“We’re trying to stay away from the Big Brother idea…but I can think of at least 10 different cases that were solved with the help of the cameras,” said Keefe.

While the footage is not manned, or monitored, during the live feed, officers have access to remote in from their cell phones at any time.

The public’s privacy is a delicate subject and some are hesitant toward the idea of surveillance.

Privacy advocate, Rebecca Jeschke, from the Electronic Frontier Foundation, worries that constant access to the public’s everyday lives could potentially be abused and impose on privacy policies.

“For what purposes would it [the footage] be searched?  Only for shootings?  Or could police use it as part of an investigation to track a criminal suspect for something
else? And would they need a warrant for that, or could they just watch the video? ”

These are questions she advises that residents ask.

“It’s true that what you do in public is public, but we don’t expect that
our public activities will be recorded, 24/7, and kept forever for any
purpose,” said Jeschke.

Keefe is certain that the cameras will only be referred to for investigations, “Picture a nanny cam, you don’t go look at what’s happening unless you need to. They’re [the cameras] for investigations only.”

The cameras are said to be installed by the end of July, “We’re trying to get them installed as soon as possible. We have to get power and permits and will have to close the freeway down at night,” said Keefe.

As assault by firearms has become a growing trend in the Pittsburg and Antioch area, the Richmond PD was able to share how they have been able to decrease gun violence in recent years.

Lieutenant Hill has been with the Richmond Police Department for 23 years and has witnessed the fluctuation in crime. In the last ten years, gun violence has decreased dramatically. “Awareness has been the biggest factor. Young people know a friend or family member who’s been a victim of gun violence and they’re more aware,” said Hill. In addition to community awareness, Hill spoke of the different programs that have been in effect to help minimize gun violence, “we have the Office of Neighborhood Safety, so when they hear stuff on the streets, they’ll pull the two groups in to talk.”

The City of Richmond has continued to fight the war on firearms, with a focus on rehabilitation. The STAR (Substance Abuse Treatment Recovery) program is a, “curriculum-based educational program designed to motivate parolee substance abusers to participate in post-release recovery activities.” This program has also been a contributing factor to Richmond’s decline in gun violence, according to Hill.

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Data courtesy of Richmond PD

There is hope for Pittsburg and Antioch. With community engagement and awareness, positive changes can be made.

Lieutenant Hill provides freeway safety tips for drivers:

  • Be observant
  • Always remove yourself from harm’s way
  • If you notice suspicious activity, pull over and call 911 and try to provide as much detail about the car as possible and the sooner, the better

As the installation plans are in process, CHP has more than doubled, as officers pull in overtime. In addition to increased highway patrol, the Pittsburg PD hosted a gun buyback program, which launched June 18.

Residents gathered in the parking lot of the City Hall and traded their guns for Target gift cards.

Officer Glasper inspects multiple rifles from the trunk of a car during the Anonymous Gun Buy Back Program. Photo by Larena Hernandez

The city is taking all preventative measures to win the battle against gun violence.

“It’s not cheap, but what price do you put on safety? It’s priceless,”  said Keefe.

Surrounding cities and counties are expected to follow in Pittsburg’s steps. For more information on the cameras, contact Captain Raman at 925.252.4839.

Posted in Uncategorized

Netflix Offers Unlimited Maternity Leave to New Parents

Netflix, located in Los Gatos Calif., has caught on to the rest of the world’s standards when it comes to maternity leave. The corporation announced early August that it would offer unlimited leave after a baby is born or adopted.

Currently, new parents receive 6 weeks off and are paid through state disability. According to, those who receive FMLA through their employer are allowed to take up to twelve weeks off and will be paid through state disability. Unless the child has special needs, anytime needed off beyond this point does not offer job protection and may not qualify for compensation through the state.

working mom

Applying and receiving benefits through the state is a tedious process, but it is the first step to begin any kind of approved leave. However, Netflix is doing things a little differently. According to CNN, the corporation will be doing the payout, rather than the state.

The employees who qualify for the leave will receive the same pay without any changes. Netflix is notorious for such employee-friendly policies, as they currently offer unlimited sick pay and vacation leave.

It has been argued that Netflix can afford to offer the maternity leave as the above due to having a substantially small number of women employed, however, the policy is for both men and women. While it may seem that this may cost the company funding and employees, it is actually the opposite. Netflix’s Chief of Talent Offer, Tawni Cranz, wrote a blog post on the subject,

“Netflix’s continued success hinges on us competing for and keeping the most talented individuals in their field. Experience shows people perform better at work when they’re not worrying about home. This new policy, combined with our unlimited time off, allows employees to be supported during the changes in their lives and return to work more focused and dedicated.”
–Tawni Cranz
Longer maternity leave seems to be a growing trend among American tech companies. Google offers 18 weeks of leave, Facebook offers four months, and Apple offers 14 weeks. Shortly after Netflix’s new policy announcement, Microsoft announced that they would be increasing their maternity leave to 20 weeks.
Posted in Uncategorized

Clinton proposes debt free reform for students

A solid education is fundamental in a job market that seems to become more and more competitive as the years progress. This can be challenging as students struggle to pay tuition costs, or can no longer afford to stay in school and ultimately accumulate college debt.

According MSNBC,  Americans hold more student loan debt than credit card debt. Today the U.S. is at a whopping $1.2 trillion deficit in student loans and the numbers are continuously rising.  One of Hillary Clinton’s proposals during her 2016 presidential election campaign is to eliminate this by offering student loan forgiveness, also known as the “New College Compact.”debt

“Students will be able to attend an in-state public university to get a 4-year degree without ever having to take out a loan for tuition,” according to Clinton’s fact sheet that was shared with reporters. While the proposal is quite enticing to the youth of America, it is gaining the publicity from the viewers Clinton needs in order to gain a victory such as Obama’s– America’s young adults. Some may describe this as strategic, but could this actually work?

Clinton’s proposal sounds appealing, however, is it realistic? She addresses, “undisclosed tax loopholes on the wealthy” and claims to use these dollars toward tuition, instead of unpayable student loans. This is not going to happen anytime soon, as her tuition piggybank will take approximately 10 years to build. Her goal is to raise $350 billion dollars for universities, non-profit colleges and grants.

Lastly, she plans on using the remaining dollars toward debt relief for students. Ultimately, the student is not obligated to repay more than 10 percent of his or her income and the remainder shall be forgiven and repaid by Clinton’s debt relief reform. One of the stipulations for qualifying students is to contribute by working at least 10 hours per week. Clinton has added an extra tax credit of $1,000 to $2,500 to individuals paying for college.

This is not the first proposal of its kind and while other politicians have failed to plan properly, its been said that Clinton’s proposal is the most detailed, prepared and expensive.

Posted in Photography, Uncategorized

Photo Editing vs Manipulation

Photos are an important part of a story. They are what attracts readers to your story, whether it is a news story or a blog post. With that said, you will want to use photos that show what is interesting about your story and why people should read it.

Many readers will not bother to continue reading past the images if your images do not sell the story well enough. This pressure can be tough on a journalist. It is important to deliver, but never feel the need to manipulate a news story in order to gain a high click rate.

This should NEVER be done, just as a journalist should never alter or fabricate the truth of a story. This compromises your integrity, judgement and work ethic.

However, editing photos is OK. Editing a photo is simply changing the photo’s aesthetics. Manipulating changes the truth. For example, an edit to a photo would be the use of the cropping tool and turning the photo black and white. Manipulating a photo would be adding to, or completely erasing parts, of the photo. This is usually done with Photoshop.

Below you will see a photo that has not been edited and another that has.

swimmingswimmingedit Do you notice anything different between the two photos? Well, the first one is the original photo, unedited on a hot Fourth of July day. The second has been altered. I used Picmonkey and started with a small crop. Next, I used the color boost tool and finally the manipulation began with erasing my son completely out of the photo. This is the difference between editing and manipulation.

I used the clone function to duplicate a spot of water and covered him up. By looking at the edited photo, you cannot tell that I was swimming with my kids, as it appears that I was only in the pool with the baby. This is actually the first time I have used this tool and think that it went perfect for the point that I am trying to convey. I’m sure that with practice, I can make some believable edits, not that I will be needing much of this type.

So, be mindful of the edits that you use and choose wisely! Your audience will appreciate an honest photo.

Posted in Uncategorized

How pollutants are harming you

The two main things every living creature needs in order to survive, are the most contaminated.

Take a guess…

That would be air and water.

In a recent blog post, I wrote about how the warm winter caused our plants to go into a “heat stress” and over pollinate, ultimately causing Asthma attacks and allergies from hell. At the beginning of spring, my 6-month-old, (at the time) was in and out of the ER due to difficulty breathing. It was at our second visit when the doctor informed us that she had many patients with the same problem and that this was simply the worst allergy and Asthma season yet.

In addition to the allergies from hell, our environment has many effects on human health. This goes for both long-term and short-term — which is one of the many reasons to take care of the environment.

In order to complete this project, I submitted a FOIA  request to the Department of Health and Human Services to obtain documentation on the statistics of pollution and human health. They responded rather quickly, but stated that they had no such records, to which I immediately questioned. Anyway, I continued my research elsewhere.

According to The World Counts, the most common forms of pollution that have the biggest impact on human health are both water and air pollution. Contamination, along with oil spills, are ruining our oceans and wildlife. The polluted air we breathe in daily is harmful in more ways than one. See my infographic below.

Infographic by Larena Hernandez
Infographic by Larena Hernandez sources: The world counts, Bay Area Air Quality Management District

Just last month Lover’s Point, in Pacific Grove, was contaminated with over 220,000 gallons of raw sewage. MRWPCA workers claim to have been running maintenance on old pipes when a valve failed. The sewage leaked for 6 hours. There is no way to filter the ocean, so the only way to kill the bacteria was to let the sun do its job.

In addition to contamination, oil spills are quite common along the California coast. 

Let’s not forget about contaminated drinking water.

There is no doubt that we need to make a serious change in order save our environment, as well as our health. The Bay Area Quality Management District is a local resource with tips and information on the Bay Area air quality. You can also check out this downloadable fact sheet with 50 ways to help limit air and water pollution.

Remember, the change begins with you.