Too graphic for some but maybe not for others

Images are powerful. They’ve taken over social media and data shows that engagement is much higher when photos are involved. In the world we live in now where imagery captures attention, it’s a given that news organizations are going to share images with breaking news whether they are graphic or not. Whether people are not fond of them or not.

People are so drawn to images that they might even skip the text and just let the photo tell the story. It really depends on what type of person is consuming the content. With images being so heavily consumed, this brings up the question of how graphic should breaking news images be.

Personally I’m not bothered by graphic images but that’s not to say that others aren’t. I’ve not faced a situation where a tragedy involves me personally and the images displayed would have a more personal meaning. While I am ok looking at the graphic images, I wouldn’t share that type of social media post to my followers in fear that they might be sensitive to it.

In the wake of the Boston Bombings, I wouldn’t want to see a relative’s image strewn all over social media if they were injured and helpless. While they weren’t my relatives in this situation, they are to someone and they might have the same feelings as I do. A photo has to be used with the news but how graphic should it be?

According to the University of Wisconsin-Madison, “By looking at the photos in terms of what they add to the news, editors should be able to determine whether publication is appropriate.”

News organizations are going to put out photos and news to attract an audience and tell the story. When graphic images are involved they might need to take a step back and think about the end user. Editor’s and social media managers who are selecting the images have been taught the ways in which the organization wants to do things but in times like the Boston Bombings, maybe the nation’s feelings should be considered.

I can’t speak for everyone and say they don’t like graphic images but it’s hard to believe that someone would want to see a member of their family or a friend go viral in this type of situation. A good solution might be to use a more graphic image inside the story link but when putting an image on a social media post that will be shared by many, have the graphic be less graphic.


4 thoughts on “Too graphic for some but maybe not for others

  1. I’m a firm believer in telling the truth, whether that truth is easy to see or not. I understand people don’t want to see family members go viral in a bad situation like the Boston bombing. But the reality is this event happened. There is a responsibility for a photojournalist to show that.

    One of the finest photojournalist living today, James Nachtwey, says “I have been a witness, and these pictures are my testimony. The events I have recorded should not be forgotten and must not be repeated.”

    That’s the point of showing the atrocities of this world. Nachtwey doesn’t revel in showing pictures of people dying. His work helps people. His work shows the rest of the world areas often forgotten, sometimes intentionally. He brings social issues to light, but the images are often times haunting.

    No one wants to see them, but they need to see them.

    The pictures in Boston are the same: They should be never be forgotten as they show the horrors of terrorism and its aftereffects.

    1. I don’t think choosing an image that is less graphic is not telling the truth. My guess is the picture that is going to get the most engagement is the one that is being chosen now when a news agency is fighting for their breaking news to be viewed the most. I’m not sure it’s even about telling a story. I would bet with social media they are going for attention grabbing and shock value.

  2. Stacy,

    I see Dave’s point. But I have to disagree to an extent because of social media’s impact on society. I like your suggestion of using the more graphic imagery inside a story link as opposed to on social media. I agree that photos are one of the most powerful ways to tell and show the truth of a situation, but there are ways to illustrate an event on social media without going for the “shock” factor.

    Personally, I don’t NEED to see photos of injuries and gore to understand the gravity of a crisis.But when a photo is posted on social media, I don’t have a choice. This photo ( had and still has a huge impact to me and there’s no blood.

    Like the University of Wisconsin-Madison states, a photo, graphic or otherwise, should be judged based on what it ADDS to a story. To me, many of the graphic images from the Boston Bombings added shock value when used on social media. Within a story, many did add value and I am fine with using them in that case. But on social media they only served as a way to get clicks. Photos illustrating the destruction, fear, confusion, comradery and strength that came out of the events, to me, told more truth than an image of a man missing his leg.

    1. Great example, Casey. I also like that it isn’t showing his face. This man’s identity isn’t revealed yet it is a very telling photo and shows great detail of the situation.

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