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How much does photoshopping matter in a political campaign? A lot, one expert says

Last Updated Sep 25, 2019 at 10:43 am PDT

FILE - Green Party Leader Elizabeth May speaks to reporters on Parliament Hill on Monday, Oct. 15, 2018. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Summary

The Green Party admitted to changing a picture of leader Elizabeth May

While Canadians are used to altered photos in advertising, it can impact the trust politicians are trying to build

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – A lot of careful planning goes into representing a candidate, but a recent, doctored picture of Green Leader Elizabeth May has some questioning just how much photoshopping in a political campaign matters.

That’s what Peter Chow-White at Simon Fraser University’s School of Communication is saying after reports a picture of May was photoshopped to alter the reusable cup in her hand, and add a metal straw.

He says while Canadians are used to it in advertising, edited images can impact the trust politicians are trying to build with voters.

“This is a different type of advertising. These are public officials that we have to trust, and we have to understand that they’re not changing up the reality, the truth, the real narrative that we’re trying to see and understand and they’re making decisions over,” he says.

Chow-White adds photoshopping can lead to people wondering what else is not being portrayed honestly.

“When you’re playing with photos and when you get found out that you’re doing these sorts of things for whatever purpose it is, that really impacts the way that you trust politicians. If you’re photoshopping this and creating what are essentially lies in terms of the visuals, what else are you not being truthful about?”  he says.

“But on the other hand, if you’re especially virtue-signalling around sorts of things or creating a representation of something that’s not necessarily there, that’s up to the public itself to judge themselves.”

The Green Party admitted to changing the picture of Elizabeth May, but Chow-White says it can still impact voters’ perceptions of a party’s honesty.