November 4, 2003

A Striking Picture

When reading a chapter in my journalism text, I came across a picture that shocked me (the baby in a bag).

What a shot. Good for so many reasons, equally bad for others. Sometimes I don't know when the photographers are stepping over the line.

When I worked at my local newspaper, one reporter was assigned to cover a dedication in honor of those soldiers headed to Iraq. Little girls were crying, wives were crying. I love her shot. She got the emotion, but did not show the individual faces of the children (their hands covered their faces). Though the children may be recognized they aren't blatantly shown.

I like the pictures that indicate emotion, that raw reality that many people lose touch with in the everyday hum drum. The shock value is important in news coverage, but the line is invisible. When it is stepped over though, get ready for the controversy. But where does that subjective line exist?

Posted by Amanda Cochran at November 4, 2003 7:00 PM

I've taught this same news story before when I taught the Intro to Journalism course. Glad to see it's in your book. It's a shocker all right, but it really makes the point about how editors must engage photographic content and make choices. That's what editors must do: draw that 'subjective line' you mention. I'm not sure where it lies, but I do know that photos should try to capture the "event" that's being covered in an objective way that invites interpretation rather than skews the reader's judgment. Clearly a body bag riles up the reader's desire for justice...which could bias a jury and so forth.

Posted by: Mike Arnzen at November 5, 2003 8:00 AM

So often when I do get the chance to enjoy a newspaper I find that stories are "skewed," as Dr. A said, whether it be positively or negatively. It's irritating as a reader because I feel like I've been taken advantage of due to the fact that I may only glance at the picture before reading the story only to find that there is some different emotion or agenda conveyed in the photograph.

Should photographers have to do more of the "line drawing" on their own in order to make editors' choices more ethical?

Posted by: Karissa at November 6, 2003 2:40 PM
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