How do mediacover Social Justice? By Diana Elbasha
Objectives By the end of this lesson, students will…• Understand the meaning of social justice and whichissues constitute “news”• Gain perspective on how social justice has evolved inrecent decades• Know the most effective ways of covering sensitivesocial justice topics• Understand the effects of different types of media on astory
Social Justice Defined Social justice generally refers to the idea of creating an egalitarian society or institution that is based on the principles of equality and solidarity, that understands and values human rights, and that recognizes the dignity of every human being. Education and Social Justice, J. Zajda, S. MajhanovichIncludes topics such as poverty, discrimination,racism, injustice, civil rights, and humanitarianissues, among others.
Social Justice in ImagesConveying information through images is one ofthe most effective, emotion-arousing forms ofcommunication.- Research has shown that emotional content is the most likelyto become viral, as are “awe-inspiring” stories that forcereaders to view the world differently.- News-related images are more likely to be shared thanhumorous ones, according to research by Social Media ExpertDan Zarrella.- “Vivid” images are particularly effective because they presentcontent in a “language” that is understood by all people,regardless of literacy, culture, etc. All brains have the samecapability of interpreting images.
In Perspective Read this Washington Post story and view some photos depicting the 1999 Kosovo conflict.Note the differences in detail between these two features:the use of imagery through words versus imagery throughphotos.• Photos were successful in capturing emotion throughtears, facial expressions, dead bodies, etc.• Which medium did you personally prefer?
ACTIVITYYou are the editor of the New York Times. You must select one ofthese photos to accompany a front page story about the Somali famine. How will you make your decision? Click to view larger images
This was the Times’ actual front page.While Executive Editor Bill Keller took some heat for runningthis photo, he stood by the decision, calling it a “no-brainer.”
Images, continuedDiscussion:• How did you feel after viewing the Times’ slideshow?• After seeing the photos, do you feel more compelled totake action to help the Somali cause?• Where is the line for journalists between informing thepublic and advocating for a social issue?• Is it okay for journalists to advocate for global crises?Are there exceptions?Related content: TIME’s “100 Photos that Changed theWorld”
There is an ongoing ethical debate about publishing graphic images of humans in such circumstances.Is it part of covering news, or is it distasteful? Here are two opinions on publishing photos of famished Somalis. “The fact that people far away can see with visceral immediacy the facts of a crisis like the one now hitting the Horn of Africa is one of the most optimistic aspects of the modern world. Consciences are awakened by the camera ... [these pictures] tell the whole world what will happen across the region unless urgent international action comes immediately.” – Jonathan Jones, The Guardian “The photographs fail to show the reason why so many people have reached this state ofdestitution. Underneath the high visibility famine lies an age-old and sustainable way of living thathas been disrupted by a modern world system, and whose ability to adapt to the cycle of drought has been severely undermined.” – Helen de Jode, The Guardian
Photographers aren’t the only ones using images:
The “Happy” Side This Pulitzer-winning image illustrated what photographer Carol Guzy called a “happy” moment in midst of conflict inKosovo: a lost baby had been found,and was being How often do you feel you get the positive side of apassed over a fence to his humanitarian conflict? In your opinion, was covering this parents. moment necessary? Helpful to understanding the situation? Distracting?