So I have a tremendous respect for those who daily work under these hardships as they labor in support of their longtime belief that what they do is important. There is much truth to the statement that news organizations are essential to a thriving democracy. Which is why dictators work to suppress them.
Therefore, I feel somewhat guilty for suggesting a couple of improvements papers could enact to make them even more relevant. And these certainly aren’t major problems.
There’s more than one way to tell a story. Words, certainly. But also images. They are an important part of many reports. They can add to the impact in a way that words cannot.
So, consider the following, all of which occurred in my local paper in December of 2021 and early January of 2022.
On December 4 the words described a significant rise in reported number of Covid cases (of course, nothing like the number that was to occur later with Omicron). The photograph associated with the article showed cars lined up for Covid testing on the previous July 29!
A December 5 story discussed a major utility’s political contributions and alluded to the possibility they were used to support ghost candidates. The only purpose was to fool voters into selecting the ghosts in order to defeat legitimate Democrats running for the office. The accompanying picture showed the utility installing electrical equipment on a pole in 2015.
December 19 discussed Joe Manchin’s stance on how the child tax credit program was not appreciated by many in his home state along with a photo of him walking on November 18 with the White House Director of National Drug Policy.
December 19 also discussed a concert by Andrea Bocelli at the Amway Center along with a picture of him singing at a Berlin concert in 2020.
On December 26 the Broward county sheriff expressed a desire to obtain seized gambling money for the department while he was shown giving a news conference on January 14 of 2021.
Also on December 26 an article dealt with what to do if one tests positive for Covid while the accompanying photograph showed a sign advertising Covid tests at a pharmacy.
January 2 had a story on us oldsters recalling inflation under Jimmy Carter with a picture of Dan Aykroyd playing Carter on Saturday Night Live in 1978.
On January 4 a report appeared detailing the problems of reopening schools while the Omicron virus was surging. The related picture showed testing going on at a drive through site in Miami.
All these preceding paragraphs share a common characteristic. The photograph accompanying the story, while somewhat related, really did not enhance the report itself. In fact, I would argue in many of the instances it detracted from it. Take, for example, the one about the utility company perhaps engaged in shady political maneuvering with the picture showing installation of equipment on a pole. The photograph had me wondering if I had missed something in the story.
I could have listed dozens of other examples all occurring in that brief time period.
As I said earlier, images can increase the potency of a report. But only if they’re relevant. So my first suggestion is find a germane photo for the story or don’t include one at all.
My second is that more maps be included with associated news reports. This used to be the case, but somewhere along the line the practice has disappeared, at least in my local paper.
I read there are 194 recognized countries in the world. Where are they? How are all those past Soviet states positioned with respect to each other and with the other nations of the world? Could you draw a sketch showing Laos, Cambodia, and Vietnam and other countries in the region? I could not. How about Africa and South America?
Certainly, I could look up maps, but wouldn’t it be nice to have an appropriate one right next to the story? Better than some of the unrelated photos discussed earlier. And so important to aid understanding in these turbulent times that the world is experiencing.
But even if my paper continues with its present practices of unrelated photos and no maps, I will support it for continuing to maintain its devotion to the truth in a time when truth doesn’t have the respect it used to. And doing it all with significantly reduced staff.