Thursday, November 18, 2004

You be the judge

The photos:
[Bush and Kerry photos]

The letter to the editor:
...[The photo] makes the one look cool, calm, determined, and, with only one hand in the air, decisive, while making the other look, with two hands in the air, unsure. The only thing worse than such a silly journalistic prank is just how opposite the truth really is...

The editor:
We had a chuckle in The Union's newsroom last week over the reader who looked at the photos...and saw an anti-Democrat conspiracy.

President George Bush was gesturing with one hand, which according to the letter writer signaled calmness and determination, while Senator John Kerry had palms up - obviously a journalistic prank, said the reader, to make him look like a flip-flopper.

Our chuckle was for several reasons...[it's against our principles]; [it's silly to think that we look for the exact perfect worst image, we're too busy]...ridiculous...[besides, we get the same comments from the right]... maybe it's just that folks read their own bias into photos or stories, but cannot recognize it...

Related commentary:

Mark A.R. Kleiman:
A newspaper photograph of a political figure is less an image of the politician than it is of the editor's political prejudices.

Dan Okrent:
Unquestionably, individual articles, headlines or photographs do cast one or another candidate in a colored light, either rosy or dark. Headlines are especially toxic because of their reductive nature.
I don't buy the argument...that because charges of bias come from both liberals and conservatives, the paper must therefore be doing things right. This makes as much sense as saying that a man with one foot on a block of ice and the other on a bed of hot coals must feel just fine.
passion is a distorting lens that makes it hard to perceive the shape of things...A Bush-hater will see a front-page picture of the confident president greeting enthusiastic crowds and shout "Bias!" much more quickly than he will remember the nearly identical photo of Kerry that ran the day before.
One famous psych study c 1951 showed students and Alum of Princeton and Dartmouth a film of a controversial game between P & D. It was a vicious game, lots of penalties. The loyalty of the viewers resulted in what can only be described as perceptions of a different game by Princeton fans and Dartmouth fans although they all saw identical footage.

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