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Von Pinnon: We erred with Friday's photo illustration

We owe all of our readers an apology, but especially Alejandra Saavedra, Will Bartels and Jim Otis.

On Friday’s front page, we published a photo illustration of cheering Bison fans to go with a Mike McFeely column that explored whether the football team and its fans would ever push to move up to a higher level of competition.

The photo was a real photo taken by one of our photographers during a Bison game. However, three signs held by fans – Saavedra, Bartels and Otis – were altered from their original messages to instead read “We want Bama,” “Bring on Bama” and “Bison Pride!”

The “Bama” reference is to perennial top-level football powerhouse University of Alabama.

Because of alterations made to Friday’s photo, we labeled it a “photo illustration.”

Photo illustrations are somewhat common in today’s news business, whether it be TV, newspapers or magazines. Anytime a photo is altered in any way – whether it be with color, fading or shading – it should be credited as a photo illustration so as to clearly distinguish it from a regular news photo.

The big problem with Friday’s front-page photo illustration is that it looked too real and connected those altered signs with real people, essentially putting words in their mouths.

We erred by not fully considering that when choosing to create this illustration.

We’ve individually apologized to Saavedra, Bartels and Otis for this error in judgment. Saavedra, for one, thanked us for taking steps to clarify the situation.

We want to assure the public and our readers that the vast majority of photos published are just as they were captured. When photos are altered for illustrative purposes, we always label them as such and will continue to do that.

In light of Friday’s situation, we will also more carefully consider how illustrations are carried out, ensuring authenticity above all else.

Readers should never have to wonder if a photograph published in The Forum depicts reality.

Von Pinnon is editor of The Forum and Reach him at (701) 241-5579, or on Twitter @inforumed

Matthew Von Pinnon

Von Pinnon is editor of The Forum.

(701) 241-5579