Just read this smart post over at Jill Walker Rettberg’s blog. As an academic and journalist, I have a slightly different reaction than most scholars seem to have to this type of debate. First, I think it’s worth examining how “The very reproducibility of the photograph means that it will be encountered in many different settings, and not always in serious, museum or documentary style contexts.” This is an issue of rhetorical velocity (Ridolfo & DeVoss), and it suggests that the viewer/reader has an obligation to understand the always-mediated nature of the image.
That makes sense, but I also think expectations surrounding acceptable levels of mediation in particular contexts are not only reasonable, but necessary. For example, when I look at a photograph in a newspaper, I expect that it might have been edited for better reproducibility, but I don’t expect that whole people might have been removed from the image for the sake of aesthetics. As a journalist, I was taught that any manipulation of an image other than limited cropping (to fit available space while working in design and layout) or adjusting the brightness (which is necessary because of darkening that happens in the printing of newspapers) was unacceptable.
Are there reasons for a journalist to alter photographs? I’m willing to entertain the idea. For example, there are things like this, where a photo is filtered for a seemingly ethical or kind reason–in this case, to avoid exposing children to gore. But, really, I can’t get on board here. While the concern that children might see blood and bone is, I think, valid, this is a lazy way to solve the problem. (Editors could have utilized blurring so that the editing was apparent, a jump to an inside page with a warning on the front, a digital-only distribution model, etc.). Worse, it’s a slippery slope from editing out potentially offensive gore to editing out entire people–say, women–because others find their presence intolerable.
This is why the apparency of particular kinds of mediation in particular contexts matters deeply.
Breaking news: BP will pay a record criminal fine in order to avoid criminal charges of gross negligence in relation to the Deepwater Horizon disaster of 2010.
This is a fascinating turn of events–particularly so because of the transnational implications of a UK-based company paying fines to the US government–and something I really wish I could have discussed in my forthcoming article “Transcultural Risk Communication on Dauphin Island: An Analysis of Ironically Located Responses to the Deepwater Horizon Disaster.” (Alas, it’s already gone to press.)
Also of particular interest to me is the fact that this story appears in CNN.com’s “Money” section (and is also linked in its “Business” section) although I think it would have fit just as nicely in “Health” or “World.” (Of course, ideally, the story would have been placed under the non-existent “Environment” section.)
Despite having the highest GPA in her graduating class, a black student (who also happens to be a mother) was forced to share valedictorian status … because having her as the lone valedictorian might “cause a big mess.” Amazingly, no one with enough power to do anything came forward to address the situation. The student then filed a lawsuit alleging a pattern of discrimination, stating that students at the school were often tracked into different levels of courses based on skin color.
This is why it’s important to teach about race and gender.
Reposted from Huffington Post:
“The commissioner of Arkansas’ education department and members of the state board are staying tight-lipped as well, refusing to make statements in support of Kymberly. … What Arkansas school officials fail to realize is that by staying silent, they’re saying plenty about their beliefs on the topic of Black student achievement.”
The following is a link to a group project I helped with as part of the class Women and Criminal Justice:
GREAT column on sexism in politics/political coverage: Bachmann, Palin and a new season for sexism