College Photographer. Knox Alum. Young Photojournalist.

Thoughts on negative photos in small papers


Is it ok to run a photo of pain, misery, or negativity in a "small" or "community" newspaper, like this photo of a little league player getting hit in the gut by a throw from the catcher? (John Williams/Sentinel)

Usually during events I come across a photo that puts a team, person or event in a negative light, and then I must decide whether or not to publish said photo.

I think there is something said in a negative photo or article that often the general public misses, but we can’t please everyone.

It’s going to undoubtedly anger someone. People might say I’m profiting off of other’s misery, or that I could have easily published a different photo of joy or excitement.

And what’s my answer to that? Well first, I’m taking photos to inform, to tell to the best of my ability what happened, and if something that is important, but negative, thats what needs to be given.

There is also often bias to a certain side of the event. At The Knox Student we have a clear Knox bias, I mean I reading public of our newspaper wants to read about Knox, not Monmouth. So during sporting events we cover Knox, and unfortunately this often leads to using positive photos even when we lose (which we do often at Knox unfortunately).

Or maybe an event goes less than great and it gets sugar coated, and while I’m not trying to bash everything at Knox, I think truth is more important than approval, but certainly that doesn’t mean to piss off people on purpose, which some journalists might fall into when they grow cynical or grow a bias against a subject.

I think I will leave it at that, but I hope to have a dialog of where a limit might exist, or if it is a gray line, which is what I think it is like many things in journalism.

-Edit- After I published I thought maybe I missed to mention I am looking at photos of events where there are both the possibility of positive and negative photos and that photos of crime scenes, fires, crashes, etc. are a whole different debate that journalists have to tackle every time they cover it.

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One response

  1. “Whatever photograph tells the story best”… is my response. Usually, I wouldn’t submit a photograph that shows someone doing something stupid unless it was a mistake that defined the outcome of the game (ie Tony Romo’s field goal fumble for Dallas some years ago). I don’t think it’s sugar coating, because to show one team screwing up would sort of take away from the other team’s accomplishments… But I guess when you are photographing a home team for a home paper, it’s kind of hard to find redeeming moments that communicate “we lost” without saying, “this player sucks.” So… I would also consider that your readership wants to know what improvements, if any, are being made by the players… focusing on the positives of a sports event may be biased, but you are addressing the interests of your readers, which is important.

    As for crime scenes, fires, crashes, etc. where reader’s interests are generally for their neighbor’s well-being, I would say that your responsibility is to the important facts first.

    July 22, 2011 at 12:41 pm

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