Last week, Carel van Wijk talked in his presentation about the reliability of visuals. He states that pictures may take different forms when they go around the world. He argues that the use of Photoshop is one of the causes for this. Today, I am going to talk about the appearing of different forms of visuals (pictures as well as videos) in various newspapers about the same news topic and in special about visuals that shows the situation in a war zone.
Earlier, I talked about news framing and agenda-setting of the stories they tell in the newspapers, but you can also frame visuals. One classical example of this is the toppling of Saddam Hussein’s statue in the Iraq War on April 9th, 2003. An event that was visual portrayed in all the media worldwide. In the research ‘They took it down’ of Fahmy, they examined the visual framing across newspapers of the toppling. They concluded that, in overall, the U.S. newspapers used a victory/liberation frame for the news of the toppling. They reported the happening as that the Iraqi people received the U.S. forces as ‘liberators’ and some of the media even compared the event with the removal of Lenin statues and the fall of the Berlin Wall. Only a few media were more critical. The following videos show that the event actually was visually framed.
Not only in the videos they used visual frames. When you look at the three pictures below, you see three different pictures of the toppling of the statue. All these pictures stopped the time of the event. This means, when you weren’t there at the moment that the picture was made, you totally miss the context of the picture. As a consequence, you are completely dependent of the story that the people tell you and at this point the media organizations come in to the story. They can choose the story they want to tell to their audience. According to Fahmy, many U.S. media took shots of the toppling at close range or cropped them tightly. When you take a look at picture 1 (which appears in the New York Times) and you think of the ‘liberating’ story that the U.S. media told their audience, it looks like that there was a crowd of jubilant Iraqis celebrating the toppling with U.S. soldiers. This way of photographing makes it very difficult to estimate how large the crowd really is. When the photographer would have taken a long-shot photograph the situation would have looked a lot different. You can see this in the second picture. The whole square is depicted and it is actually quite empty; only at the foot of the statue you see a really small crowd. A contrary story of this situation can made with picture 3, were the photograph take close pictures of the action. This picture can visualize a situation of an invasion and occupation of the U.S, because the only thing that you see is the U.S. soldier that drapes a flag of the U.S. over the face of the statue.
Fahmy also state that journalists, during the war, are less objective to support their country’s troops and their government’s position on the war. The results of another research of Greenwood and Jenkins show that the international news about the Syrian conflict is often visually framed in terms of violence and disaster. In other words: the pictures depicted most often the active participants and aftermath of battle instead of the affected bystanders or efforts to negotiate peace. Besides this they conclude that the framing depends on the kind of magazine: the news magazine published more with violent frames and public relation magazines more with peaceful frames.
In conclusion, in my opinion the use of Photoshop certainly can be one of the causes of varying pictures across newspapers and different videos, but the chosen frame and the goals of the news organizations have also an influence on it. As a consequence, I have to conclude again that it is important to read more than one news source to check the information you read. Especially, when the news goes about war. In addition to this advice, you have to ask yourself questions about the context when you look at a picture. A picture without a context can be interpreted in so many ways. Therefore, read more articles of several sources and look critically at pictures to complete your own reliable news puzzle!