Posted by: emmajoyce | October 1, 2012

Do Images That Haunt…Tell?

In Chapter 3’s case study of the media in Iraq, O’Shaughnessy and Stadler bring to light questions concerning the truthfulness and viewpoints of media, including citizen-driven reports during war (particularly videos and photos shot with unprofessional equipment). A main concern arises: how many of these visuals should be published and how often? While honest and important to see, lest the public be sheltered from the atrocities of war, they can be extremely graphic and violent…sometimes leading to desensitization or traumatization. Susan Sontag explains:

The problem is not that people remember through photographs, but that they remember only the photographs…Harrowing photographs do not inevitably lose their power to shock. But they are not much help if the task is to understand…Narratives can make us understand…Photographs do something else: they haunt us. (Sontag 2003, p.89)

It is vital to depict war, but it is important to remember that age-old adage, “Less is more.” This isn’t to say I support censorship or omission of graphic material because of its contents, but rather that media outlets have a responsibility to make conscious efforts to both “show” and “tell.”

In this ever-evolving landscape of multimedia journalism, how do we find a balance between the mediums? Amid a screen-dominated world, do still images and video always overpower words?

See pages 55-58.

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