Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Pictures tell a story words sometimes cannot

Robbie DiPaola

Today's technology allows anyone with a cell phone in hand to be considered a photographer.  We take photos and upload them onto social media for everyone to see what we see.  Humans are visual creatures.

Sure, we can all easily read a description of an event that is taking place, but humans would rather rely on visual images, and would rather physically see what is going on and being described then just having to rely on a block of text to try and picture what is going on.

There is indeed research that tells us that humans process images much faster than if they were reading text.  Seeing something visually helps us grasp a better understanding of what is going on in a particular setting or event.

While it is very easy to capture a photo nowadays, we have to be careful of what is put out there, not only in the news but also on websites and social media. With the technology today, it is very easy to manipulate a photo and turn something real into something that is altered and untrue.

Below is a photo that was taken during Boston Marathon bombings that took place in April of 2013. The photo is of two men who at the time were thought to be the suspects of the horrific attacks that day.


It turns out that this photo is not of the two suspects involved in the bombings, they were two people who were just in attendance watching the marathon unfold, but because of this one photo that was run by the New York Post, they were wrongly accused and branded terrorists when they were two innocent bystanders.

This is just one example of the news media not taking the necessary steps to verify a photo before releasing it to the public, and because of this slip up, these two men will be forever associated with the bombings even though they had nothing to do with what happened.

When a major news event happens in our country, it seems like everyone is searching and sharing photos of this major event that is taking place.  Again, we have to be careful, as journalists, to not get caught up in a photo we think is interesting and then post it without checking where it came from and whether it is even a true photo or a piece of work that someone created with photoshop.

An example of this happened in the fall of 2012 when Hurricane Sandy hit the East Coast. Throughout the days the storm was at its peak, many photos surfaced on social media and were being shared quite rapidly.

While many of the photos that were appearing throughout the news were indeed real, there were some photos of Hurricane Sandy that were indeed falsified.

It is our duty as journalists and members of the media to be accurate in our work, and that includes being ethical when it comes to choosing what photos to run for a story. While capturing a high-quality photo is great work, as a journalist, you must provide good context with your photo or else that great photo is meaningless, and you cannot run the photo at all. It is all a balancing act.

While there will always be news articles filled with text for readers to read, they are the images that are included that sometimes tell a better story than the words can. There is great power in the art of photography, and as journalists, it is our responsibility to use that power ethically.

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