Graphic Images

Monitor how different media handle graphic images

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Monitor how different media handle graphic images
How should media balance what their audiences can bear with what their audience needs to be told? What’s offensive? What’s necessary?

  • Student exercise: What news photographs do you remember? Why are they memorable?
  • Student exercise: Look at the television or newspaper coverage of a local controversial story. Do you agree with the images the producers or editors selected to tell the story? How would different images have changed the audience’s understanding of the importance what happened?

- United States: Consider the historical example of the photos published of Emmett Till, a 14-year old Civil Rights victim of a lynching in the United States from here or here.

  • Class discussion: Many people in the audience of a media outlet are offended when editors and producers use graphic images. How can editors and producers tell their readers and viewers about their reasons for running such pictures? Does it make a difference to know why an editor or producer selected a certain image or video clip?

  • Role-play exercise, Part I: Consider that the students in the class are all editors at a local newspaper or producers at a local television station. One of the news outlet’s reporters comes back to the newsroom with the story of a horrible accident that happened in your town. A bus full of people has crashed, killing 10 and injuring 12. Another 8 people were uninjured. The reporter took photos (or videotape) of a wide ranges of scenes. Some of the images show just the crumpled bus. Some show the survivors—some of the photos of the survivors show close-ups of them keening in grief over the bodies of their dead or injured relatives; other photos of survivors are from a greater distance and show the destruction of the entire scene. Some photographs show the wounded—some show the wounded bloodied and crying off by themselves, others show the wounded receiving medical attention by emergency personnel who arrived on the scene. Some images show the dead—some show the dead in sufficient close-up that the fatal injuries can be clearly seen and the people can be recognized, other images show the dead from a distance—in fact the only way to really tell that they are dead is through a photo caption saying that these people are dead.


➢ The story is to run in the news outlet selected by the students. The question for the student-editors/producers is: What single photo should be used to illustrate the story or what selected footage should run on TV as the story is being reported? Do you show the dead or the wounded? Do you show the rescuers or the grief of the uninjured survivors? Be sure to consider who is the audience for your news outlet.

  • Role-play exercise, Part II: After selecting the type of news image you think is appropriate consider if the story was slightly different. Would you make the same choice? Why?

➢ Does it make a difference to your choice if this accident didn’t happen in your town, but occurred in the country next door?
➢ Does it make a difference to your choice if this happened in the country next door, but people from your town were killed?
➢ Does it make a difference to your choice if this was the third major accident of a bus in your town in the last 6 months?
➢ Does it make a difference to your choice if those who were traveling on the bus were school children? What about if a famous person was one of the passengers?
➢ Does it make a difference to your choice if you know that this was not a random accident—the driver was drunk and he was the cause of the tragedy?
➢ Does it make a difference to your choice if the tragedy was not caused by an accident, but was caused by a suicide bomber?