Combining text and photos

One of this week’s readings that I found particularly interesting was the NPR article, “People Wonder: ‘If They Gunned Me Down,’ What Photo Would Media Use?” by Bill Chappell.

A blog called “Which Picture Would They Use?” displays a variety of photos of several young black adults. Each of them posted two pictures of themselves: one that showed them in a respectful setting and another that was a little bit less appropriate. For example, one girl posted a picture of herself smiling and looking proud in a cap and gown next to a selfie where she doesn’t look as proud or happy.

The people shared these photos with the question: which one would the media use?

Would media choose to show an unflattering photo along with the headline “Shot by police…” Doesn’t that sort of tell the readers, ‘well, she didn’t have the best track record to begin with…’ An obvious and unsympathetic argument could be: don’t post a photo to the Internet that you wouldn’t want on the front page of The New York Times. But that’s ridiculous. Maybe a friend posted a picture and you hid it from your timeline, but it’s still out there on the Internet. Would media go so far as to use it?

The argument here is that the photos shared of Michael Brown by the media seem to portray him as a bad kid. Why not choose a photo of his grinning face?

Since multimedia journalism is still fairly new, I find this topic to be a very important discussion to have. Does choosing a certain picture to go along with a story alter the interpretations of readers? And, if so, is this bad?

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About Samara Abramson

Samara Abramson is an experienced multimedia journalist, eager to bring new ideas, energy and creativity to a news organization after graduating from the University of Massachusetts Amherst in May 2015. At UMass, Samara studies journalism and political science. Samara has interned at WCVB-TV Channel 5 Boston and the Cape Cod Times. She currently reports for UMass' only student-run television station, UVC-TV 19. During her time at UMass, Samara has also reported for student-run newspaper, The Massachusetts Daily Collegian and a start-up online magazine, Amherst Wire. Samara's journalistic skills range from writing, reporting and editing, to video, web design, production and photography. Samara is eagerly pursuing a career in broadcast journalism, with a specialized interest in digital production.
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2 Responses to Combining text and photos

  1. nicoledotzenrod says:

    As a journalist it’s important to remain as objective as possible when relaying information. We often think about this in the context of the words we use, but I think it’s equally as important to put some thought into the choice of photo that accompanies the article. A photo can say a lot about someone or something, and we tend to read photographs through a cultured lens. Just like when we analyzed photos from Facebook, we detect meaning in photos with or without an accompanying caption or article. I think the choice of photo is just as important as the choice of words in sharing information in an unbiased way.

  2. Photos absolutely alter readers’ responses. The difference between having a picture on your Facebook that you don’t like that you maybe hid from your timeline is that most of your Facebook friends already know you, and thus, know whether or not a photo is representative of you and your personality. For readers who don’t have a clue who they’re reading about, one picture can be an entire representation of this person. By displaying a bad picture of Michael Brown, they’re telling the readers – this is who he was; this is who you should judge him as.

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