Making a “True” Statement vs. Stating the “Whole Truth” in Photo-Journalism: Expanded

A while back I had created a post called, “Making a “True” Statement vs. Stating the ‘Whole Truth’ in Photo-Journalism”. As I was going through some of the blog posts other people have created on this page, I noticed that one of my classmates, Neha had responded to the question I asked at the end of my post which had asked, “Is it reasonable for the media to mix opinions in with facts if it serves to make a statement, or should all media be factual, regardless of whether or not it gets a point across?”.She responded to this question by stating, “I believe that mixing in facts with opinion is inevitable, especially if one is getting paid for it. But at the same time, I believe audiences have the right to know which sources are mixing in opinions and which are solely facts, or showcase as few opinions as possible, in order to avoid any misunderstandings.” I definitely agree with her answer and can see how photojournalists might be inclined to mix opinions into their articles if it would help sell more papers/get more views. The more papers or views they sell or obtain can directly effect the journalist’s pay, therefore encouraging to alter a story/picture when this increase in profit presents itself. However, also for their story to sell, it needs to be believable and have enough truth within the story to be deemed credible and prevent misunderstandings. I definitively recommencement checking out the rest of her post as she has much more to say on the topic. There is a link to her post attached to the quote referenced earlier if you would like to check it out.

As promised in the title to this post, rather than just responding to my peer’s post, I plan to actually expand on the aforementioned topic of truth within photojournalism. My previous post discussed a series of photos that were taken post-Hurricane Sandy rather than during the storm. If a bad storm is approaching, a reporter needs to give listeners and readers all the facts if people are going to take proper precautions.  Adding opinions into the facts can lead to the spread of misinformation and causing people to see the approaching storm as not taking the storm seriously. As shown by the documentary When The Levees Broke, some people actually stayed during Hurricane Katrina due to this very reason. However, I am not saying that everyone who stayed stayed due to misinformation as many as many stayed simply because they were physically and/or economically unable to leave the path of the storm.

Regardless, factual reporting is absolutely necessary for reporting on serious matters before and as they occur. Time of reference is crucial when reporting on Hurricanes and other natural disasters. Once the event has passed, although it would be nice to see only facts in the news, there is less of a need for avoiding opinionated reporting as it is less likely that this news can save lives. The brunt of the damage has been done and there is less of an immediate threat to public health. Before I continue, let me make it clear that I am not saying that all reporting is opinionated or even that it is okay to spread biased news. What I am trying to convey here is that there are levels of urgency in presenting truthful news and that it is most urgent to do so when this news reports on matters that can keep people safe. 

Unlike in verbal or written reporting, photojournalism adds visuals to a story and may even allow for a clearer picture of what is being reported. However, unlike with written and verbal reporting, photojournalism needs to be a part of a larger report or at the very least, have written captions to help provide a context for the pictures. This therefore brings me to a point made in Neha’s blog post about aestheticism in photojournalism. When taking pictures, you want to make the photo as clear and illustrative of the environment as possible. However, you might not get the best “natural” picture and be forced to either alter the perspective of the photo or physically move what is in the shot in order to get the picture how you want it. This would be considered the photographer utilizing artistic creativity in order to take the “best” photo. This may not result in the most truthful photo, but it can result in evoking a larger emotional response to what is being shot. Thus bringing back the idea of adding opinion to the story to get it to sell more. This illustrative creativity is a big part of photography, but should aesthetics ever take such priority in photojournalism?

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