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View Diary: Manufacturing the narrative (256 comments)

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  •  When digital imagery... (23+ / 0-)

    ...first appeared on the scene, another incident like this one, where an image was altered and placed in the new form on the cover of a prominent magazine, brought that publication almost universal rebuke.  I don't recall all the details, but I believe heads rolled over that one.

    The value of a photographic image in a journalistic context relies on its reliability to represent fact.  Lose that fact, and the image becomes propaganda.  The factual discrepancies in this instance might seem small potatoes, but the meaning of the image -- a lone leader overcome (with bowed head) by the damage the oil spill (represented by the rig floating in the visual space above him) is wreaking -- is substantially altered from one where the President is seen to be being on the scene and briefed about the clean-up.

    The Economist has earned every bit of rebuke that it probably will not get.

    •  Dance, I remember that. The magazine fixed (7+ / 0-)

      someone's teeth in a cover photo. Now a magazine is doctoring a photo of the President. And it's all good? So much for the "liberal" media.

      •  There were also instances, pre-digital, of photos (8+ / 0-)

        ...being altered -- one in particular comes to mind from the Cold War era that removed participants from a conference table to make it appear an American was getting chummy with a Communist Russian at the conference.

        Photographs inherently lie in many ways (people are not two inches tall, two-dimensional, black-and-white, and situated in a world that has no context beyond the picture frame), but the use of photographic imagery in any narrative relies upon the readiness with which the audience will accept it as fact.  And if a publication is permitted to get away with altering those facts, a valuable public asset -- visual imagery as a carrier of information -- will be lost.

        •  Expanded into a larger context, it is the entire (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          dance you monster

          piece that works to set some narrative, if that is what the publication wants to do. Word choice can range from neutral to heated in some direction. Pictures can be selected for angle and natural background, or can be doctored to various degrees. It just seems to depend upon what people will accept as information or news.

          We'll see what wider flak the Economist gets hit with over this.

          -- We are just regular people informed on issues

          by mike101 on Mon Jul 05, 2010 at 09:56:53 AM PDT

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        •  Thanks for pointing out photos are (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Dirtandiron, dance you monster

          inherently 'propaganda'

          dance you monster points out that photos -- even 'documentary' photos -- are "situated in a world that has no context beyond the picture frame."  Verbal & textual journalism frames a story in much the same way, but we're generally reminded of the subjective nature of such reportage by the second-hand nature of the reporter's voice.  Photos don't impose the person of the reporter between us and the things being represented.  We're allowed to 'suspend disbelief' and assume that what the camera saw was the real fact of the moment pictured.

          There is so much that goes into picking the moment, framing information into the picture and framing stuff out of consideration in the composition, and selecting one image over many others of the same event, that makes any news photo an act of propaganda and ideological communication more than even a conveyor of news information one wonders why more picture editors don't use Photoshop to suit the image to their narrative more often than they do!

        •  It goes further back than that (2+ / 0-)
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          Dirtandiron, dance you monster

          In the Civil War many of the photos weren't graphic enough, so the photographer posed the dead soldiers in positions they never occupied, with guns they didn't have, in order to sell more photos.  Most people who are familiar with the Civil War know these pictures and believe that they really represent what actually happened.  

          One would hope that 150 years later we might have learned something.

      •  The Economist is anything but liberal . (8+ / 0-)

        "I'm not going back there, it's full of jerks." Shahyar

        by indycam on Mon Jul 05, 2010 at 08:17:14 AM PDT

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        •  Now that's the truth. (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          monkee, Dirtandiron, WSComn

          It's part of why I'm just not rocked back on my heels here. Maybe I am being cynical, but the image just isn't all that interesting and it's the freakin Economist.

          "In all chaos there is a cosmos, in all disorder, a secret order." Carl Jung

          by Unduna on Mon Jul 05, 2010 at 08:20:11 AM PDT

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        •  Depends on what topics (4+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          eztempo, LennyLiberal, Eloise, roadbear

          On social issues the economist is more liberal then most people on this site.

          So, what if I told you a firms objective is to maximize profit subject to an output constraint with a quasi-concave production function?

          by MoshebenAvraham on Mon Jul 05, 2010 at 08:22:31 AM PDT

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        •  Yes, it is just as right wing (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:

          The Economist is just another right wing promoting, ultra-conservative, marching in lock-step tabloid fronted by a reasonable sounding name.

          The Economist

          The Wall Street Journal

          The Washington Times

          They're dangerous.  In carrying out the will of the conservatives they serve they don't care who they hurt.

          Unbiased, my ass.

          Van Jones, on Obama taking over for Bush: We have a President that volunteered to be captain of the Titanic after it hit the iceberg.

          by WSComn on Mon Jul 05, 2010 at 08:33:56 AM PDT

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          •  Yes, they're so ultra-conservative... (5+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            monkee, pico, BachFan, Eloise, roadbear

            ...that they endorsed Obama. You can't really tie them to any particular ideology. They're very liberal on social issues while they're conservative on economic issues and a mixed bag on foreign affairs.

            GOP stands for Grand Old Problem.

            by LennyLiberal on Mon Jul 05, 2010 at 09:21:12 AM PDT

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            •  Your point? (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:

              In 2008, given the fact that all these pubs saw the writing on the wall, hated Palin as a running mate and were astounded at the horrible campaign McCain was conducting were but some of the reasons they gave for endorsing Obama.  None of them wanted to look they didn't know what was going to happen, so they endorsed Obama to 'save face'.  Go back and read their respective endorsements.  Half-hearted as they all were, none impressed me.

              But now were talking about 2010, not 2008.  My comment, from the heart though it may be, stands.

              Van Jones, on Obama taking over for Bush: We have a President that volunteered to be captain of the Titanic after it hit the iceberg.

              by WSComn on Mon Jul 05, 2010 at 11:53:40 AM PDT

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              •  My point is they're not ultra conservative (0+ / 0-)

                And I don't think they should be demonized as such. Though they have some conservative leaning economic beliefs, they're pro gay marriage, pro government involvement in healthcare, and strongly non proliferation among other stances.

                As disappointing as their editing blunder may be, they are NOT rabid hard right nuts.

                GOP stands for Grand Old Problem.

                by LennyLiberal on Mon Jul 05, 2010 at 12:14:17 PM PDT

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                •  Even the Times???? (1+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:

                  Are you saying The Washington Times is not ultra conservative?  Maybe you could make a case for the WSJ and possibly The Economist, but you'll never convince me the Times is anything but a shill for the ultra conservatives in this country.

                  Van Jones, on Obama taking over for Bush: We have a President that volunteered to be captain of the Titanic after it hit the iceberg.

                  by WSComn on Mon Jul 05, 2010 at 05:59:10 PM PDT

                  [ Parent ]

    •  The "darker darkie" OJ (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Adam B, eztempo, eXtina, dance you monster

      to make a more "menacing" cover. Time?

    •  The "Smoke over Beruit" flap damaged Reuters (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Eloise, dance you monster, barkingcat

      There was the 2006 firestorm of criticism of Reuters, which ran a freelancer's photo of damage done by Israeli fighter/bombers over Beruit that had been doctored to make it seem worse than it actually was.  (Not that it wasn't bad enough already.)

      Adnan Hajj probably didn't sell another photo to a Western news outlet after that -- who knows? -- but Reuters certainly spent days in the hot seat for publishing a Photoshopped  "news" photo!

      This thing with The Economist is NOT "not the biggest deal" as Jed says, but DOES drive to the heart of journalistic credibility, and must be decried from every forum and media outlet, and, yes, heads must roll.  It's the only way to enforce an ethic of honesty in an otherwise anarchic major media universe.

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