NEW YORK -- The editor of the New York Daily News defended Friday's front-page photograph that made it look as if President Clinton and Cuban leader Fidel Castro were about to shake hands.
The composite -- made by sticking two photos together -- appeared with a caption in some editions saying "Clinton and Castro shared a handshake at the Millennium summit this week." The page also carried the notation "photo illustration."
The two leaders did shake hands and exchange brief greetings after a United Nations luncheon Wednesday, but there were no known photographs of the event.
"There's no effort at misrepresentation in this," said the newspaper's editor in chief, Ed Kosner. "We clearly labeled it as a photo illustration in type larger than we usually use for captions."
But some critics said such a picture -- with or without a disclaimer -- is a dangerous practice that could undermine the public's trust in journalism.
"Playing around with reality is a very tricky game and it's pretty dubious," said Jay Rosen, chairman of the Department of Journalism at New York University.
He said that it was difficult to know how common the practice is, since techniques are getting so advanced that they're increasingly difficult to spot.
Kosner said: "We haven't done it very frequently, but it's a long-established illustrative technique."
In 1994, New York Newsday published a cover photograph that made it look like Nancy Kerrigan and Tonya Harding were skating together when, in fact, they had not. The photo appeared with a caption noting it was a composite.
"Each time this happens it undermines the credibility of other photos," said Keith Woods, who teaches media ethics at the Poynter Institute, a journalism research and training organization in St. Petersburg, Fla. "'Photo illustration' doesn't really say that this didn't happen. If you're going to alter the reality, there should be absolutely no doubt in the mind of the reader that that's what it is."
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