Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Editing: Photo Selection

We have been talking this week about how we sometimes have to make difficult decisions when selecting pictures for publication. In class, we looked at a series of pictures at this website and discussed what ethical and personal elements come into play when deciding if photos like these are fit to print. The first series from the website if from a press conference held by former Pennsylvania treasurer R. Budd Dwyer. This press conference is infamous because the treasurer used it to commit a public suicide ahead of charges for accepting $300,000 dollars in illegal kickbacks.

The series of photos, which ranges from him pulling out a gun to him actually shooting himself in the head, caused a lot of tough decisions to be made by editors accross the country. I have discussed these photos in other classes and am aware that some news broadcasts opted to go with the more graphic photos (the treasurer with the gun in his mouth) while others played the story more conservatively(photos simply of him holding the gun). I definitely think that television is where a choice such as this one would be most difficult. Television focuses on sensationalism in order to maintain viewer interest, so I feel that in this platform the pressures to go with the more graphic photos would be the greatest. That said, I personally can't really justify using the last two photos on any platform. This is mostly out of my belief in the journalism standard of minimizing harm. There are members of any audience who likely would be harmed by seeing such photos. This might include family members of the treasurer, impressionable children, or other people who have had some one close to them commit suicide. I think that the first two photos, accompanied by the actual story, more than do their part to convey the mood, setting, and nature of the news story.

Below that photo series were a number of other controversial or gruesome pictures. I think that I would hesitate to use most of them, especially the one with the woman being stripped and groped by a gang of people at Mardi Gras. Again, this photo is likely to evoke painful emotions of any rape of molestation victim, and I expect that it is uncomfortable for most women in general. There some photos that could be run with a little editing of in the right situation. For instance, I think that the one featuring a dead boy on the ground with the family greiving overhead could be a very powerful shot if you simply cropped the boy's body out. In the end, its all about minimizing harm while still maximizing impact, and I will be the first to admit that that is a difficult and complicated challenge.

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