Positive and Negative Spin

20th September 2013

The  ‘Exercise: Positive and Negative Spin’ requires the student to study the way that racial issues are covered in the modern press and to try to distinguish any differences in the way that the images used in the tabloids and broadsheets may differ when they depict the story. It also encourages looking at stories which aren’t just about black people, but Asians and travellers as well.

For me, the unfortunate thing about this whole section ‘Project: Social Documentary and Race’ is one I would have preferred not to write about under that title.  Racism isn’t the only issue that has negative connotations in society, travellers, gays and lesbians, mentally ill, homeless, unemployed, disabled are also categories of society who come in for persecution and intolerance, and there are many more sections of society than this that could be covered under this umbrella.  To simply have race within the subject title, and for the following text to be mainly slanted toward this issue, to my mind reduces the problems of PERSECUTION to being simply that of the negro, as the text is mostly on this subject, whereas a university course should be concerned with widening the discussion to how photography has and is being used to support the negative and positive arguments of the whole subject.  A further issue arises of this exercise being about photojournalism and not social documentary, as section one of this course is meant to cover.  I appreciate that the course hasn’t covered photojournalism separately in a section of its own, but the next project ‘Modernist Practice’ does cover photojournalism where this exercise would be better suited in my opinion.  It can also be argued that documentary and photojournalism have a very close similarity and a great deal of cross-over, but the way images are presented in the press is not a social documentary question, it’s simply for economics and the editorial philosophy of the newspaper.  The photographer is not making the images to fulfill any ongoing social documentary cause, they simply get an image to order in the philosophical, editorial style of the newspaper and then the editors make a choice upon which image supplied will help sell more newspapers to their respective audiences.  The common belief, and I can’t argue it’s not correct, is that tabloids will show more sensationalist images, to match their prose, whilst broadsheets will be more conservative with images and prose.  It would take a great deal of investigation to prove or disprove this belief.

Whilst attempting to find images from tabloids and broadsheets that covered the same or similar stories on persecution, it became obvious that both strands of journalism are pulling back from displaying images that could be construed as purely negative.  My personal opinion about this is that more and more people are prepared to sue newspapers these days and with many more claims of ‘photoshopped’ images being used, the newspapers are becoming less willing to stick their necks out and use images depicting more active acts of persecution.

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