March 16, 2005

All The Hues That Fit To Print


When it comes to massaging the news, what are the standards of disclosure?

The NYT is all over that question (Under Bush, a New Age of Prepackaged TV News – link) in their Sunday analysis of the media’s ready use of pre-packaged Bush Administration video news reports (VNR’s). 

In the Week in Review section the same day, the Times also ran an article (The Revolution Will Be Colorized — link) about the recent tendency of political movements to identify themselves by a specific color.  As you might expect, the story relied heavily on color pictures to depict various examples, including campaigns in Ukraine, the Philippines and Lebanon.  If a person can hardly be one hundred percent positive about anything these days, I’m almost certain these photos were artificially color saturated to punch up the story.

I freely admit that the representation of propaganda as news is an order of magnitude more serious than the adjustment of reality through a higher intensity of hue.  As someone who carefully parses out the political and psychological dynamics of political images however, I can’t help but believe there’s some parallel.

Of course, the color in a news photo will always be an approximation in the same way color in real life is also variable, given natural fluctuations like changes in light, or more unique variables, such as individual color processing in the eye.  At the same time, if the Times is going out of its way to artificially amp up the color in a political article that specifically represents the naturalistic use of color, I think they at least owe a disclosure.

(Note: Other than a slight reduction in size, the image above is reproduced exactly as it appears on the Times website.  If you follow the link to the article, the Multimedia box in the right column offers a slide show of all the images from the print version.)

(image: Victoria Sinistra /Agence France-Presse — Getty Images in The New York Times)

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Michael Shaw
See other posts by Michael here.

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