Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Graphic Photojournalism in the Age of New Media

Lincoln Rinehart


Laptops, computers and tablets have given people a chance to actively participate in what becomes classified as news.  In many cases, the feedback a publication receives for displaying a graphic image or video becomes a larger story to the public than the story the original image or video was telling to begin with.  Journalists should not publish graphic images because doing so distracts readers from the original story at hand.  Several instances have occurred in which the uproar over posting graphic content became the focus of an article rather than the story behind the content itself.  Such can be observed in the case of James Foley.

James Foley Case

The video of James Foley's beheading became viral and people forgot the story the video was accompanying.  On August 19, 2014 the initial New York Times article  was posted to twitter and the response was nothing but support and comments on the actions taking place.  However, the very next day publicity surrounded the controversy of having the beheading video available online.  This publicity distracted the public from the meaningful issue of violence in Syria, and rather drew attention to the issue of graphic content being available online.  This can be observed in the responses to the New York Times article tweeted on August 19th, and the responses to Dick Costolo's tweet about removing the graphic content from Twitter on August 20th.  The responses to the New York Times tweet were replying directly to the issue of ISIS and violence in Syria; whereas, the responses to Costolo's tweet contained a discussion of publicizing graphic content.

Responses to New York Times Article
Source: https://twitter.com/nytimes/status/501862926039654400 

Responses to Costolo's tweet
Source:  https://twitter.com/dickc/status/502005459067625473

Did the Graphic Content Serve a Purpose?

In an article on the pros and cons of publishing graphic content, author Jim Lewis states that "pictures of horror, at a certain point, no longer function as news; they become, themselves, the news."  I believe that before content is posted, editors must ask themselves if the result of the content they publish matches the purpose of producing the content in the first place. 

The purpose of distributing information is to educate people on the issues at hand.  Lewis continues in saying, "I no longer think that what happens when horrifying pictures are published has anything to do with journalism." Journalists should be informing the public on issues of concern in order to promote discussion and action towards addressing that concern.  

Final Thoughts

In the case of James Foley, the public discussion was not aligned with the focus of the initial news article.  Furthermore, the graphic imagery itself served no significant purpose; the story could have been told without it.  Yes, the images may have made a more serious impact initially, but the uproar over the content itself ultimately distracted many readers from the information in the original article. The ability for average citizens to openly discuss issues that fall under public concern, and obtain a large reach in doing so, perpetuates discussion on issues that may or may not be addressing the most important and meaningful topics at hand.  

No comments:

Post a Comment