Lawmaker to introduce bill making photo altering illegal

WISCONSIN -- The September revelation that University of Wisconsin officials had altered the cover photo of the school's 2001-02 undergraduate application brochure prompted a state legislator to introduce a bill designed to block such practices, a move some say would unnecessarily limit the freedom of photojournalists.

State Rep. Marlin Schneider, D-Wisconsin Rapids, has pursued this issue before through Gov. Tommy Thompson's privacy board. He got nowhere, he said, because he had no examples to provide the board. But now, he said, the University of Wisconsin's application, altered to include a black student among a group of white students, provides an example.

"In the digital age, the ability of people to use this [technology] for extremely serious purposes needs to be addressed," Schneider said at a news conference announcing his intention to file the bill before the start of the 2001 session of the Wisconsin Assembly. "It could be extremely destructive to peopleĆ­s lives and reputations."

University of Wisconsin at Madison journalism professor Shiela Reaves said photo alteration is an ethical matter that should be settled in the newsroom, not the statehouse.

"I think that a legislator proposing something [like this] is a journalist's worst nightmare," she told The Daily Cardinal, UW-Madison's student newspaper.

Since Schneider's announcement, university officials have apologized to the student whose image was added to the photo illustration and reprinted the application packet with a new picture.

reports, Winter 2000-01