Conveying information through images is one of the most effective, emotion-arousing forms of communication.- Research has shown that emotional content is the mostlikely to 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 theypresent content in a “language” that is understood by allpeople, regardless of literacy, culture, etc. All brains have thesame capability 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: theuse of imagery through words versus imagery through photos.• Photos were successful in capturing emotion through tears,facial expressions, dead bodies, etc.• Which medium did you personally prefer?
What goes into consideration when selecting images for publication?1. Subject: immediately recognizable; audience can easily understand the point of the photo2. Quality: colors, shading, resolution, size, clarity are in harmony3. Relevance: the photo directly relates to and complements the accompanying story, if there is one4. Effect: provoking discussion, emotion, action from audience5. Taste: Will the photo offend, frighten, or disturb the audience? Disclaimer necessary?
Why is it such a big deal?There is an argument that the media’s use of dramatic, compelling photos sensationalizes serious issues, or exploits them for profit rather than journalistic purposes. Controversial Examples: Click photos to enlarge and read more
ACTIVITY You are the editor of the New York Times. You must select one of these photos to accompany a front page story about the Somali famine.How will you make your decision? Click to view larger images
Remember the 5 criteriaSubject – Quality – Relevance – Effect – Taste Are the photos “scary?” Do they add to the story? Evoke emotions? Based on previous examples, discuss potential audience reactions.
Results“The fact that people far away can see with visceral immediacy the facts of a crisis likethe one now hitting the Horn of Africa is one of the most optimistic aspects of themodern world. Consciences are awakened by the camera ... [these pictures] tell thewhole world what will happen across the region unless urgent international actioncomes immediately.” – Jonathan Jones, The Guardian “The photographs fail to show the reason why so many people have reached this state of destitution. Underneath the high visibility famine lies an age-old and sustainable way of living that has 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 NYT Executive Editor Bill Keller stood by it: “[Our photographers] sent us a harrowing story and vivid, arresting photographs. We put them before the attention of our readers. Thats our job.”
Images, continuedDiscussion:• How did you feel after viewing the Times’ slideshow?• After seeing the photos, do you feel more compelledto take action to help the Somali cause?• Where is the line for journalists between informingthe public and advocating for a social issue?• Is it okay for journalists to advocate for globalcrises? Are there exceptions?Related content: TIME’s “100 Photos that Changed the World”