October 15, 2006

Saying Ney


As to why he’s not resigning now, several officials have said the congressman is financially strapped and needs his $165,200 annual paycheck and benefits as long as he can continue to receive them.

–CBS News Report.  October 13, 2006.

Why is it that news publishers continue to enjoy a virtual free ride when it comes to image selection?  Given the incredible oversight and critique the ‘sphere dedicates to political writing and reporting, isn’t it time the media was held to similar account for its day-to-day visual output?

Take this weekend’s CBS story on Congressman Bob Ney, for example.  The image above is the one CBS selected from the newswire grab bag.  Of course, visual narrative can be quite subjective (which is one reason picture editors, so far, have escaped the scrutiny alluded to above).  The BAG has problems with this choice, however.

What we see here is Ney’s public face — in a mask of contrition.

This upper echelon Representative, however, was just convicted for influence peddling as part of a group of officials awash in sleaze.  In refusing to resign, Ney also stabbed his party in the back, thumbed his nose at the court and further maligned the (already lowly) reputation of the Congress.  If that’s the case, and the reporter’s words say as much, why marry that story to such an empathetic — or, at least, ambiguous photo?


Because most of us now have our own ability to scan the newswire, we have a better idea what kind of pictorial options CBS had at their disposal.  Perhaps this shot might have been more representative?  Here, for example, we get an idea of Ney as a dodger who doesn’t hold up under closer inspection.  The half-smirk not only offers a better character window, but is also instructive as to who/what CBS failed to capture with their selection.

Update 10/16/06.  5:53 am EST:

In the excellent discussion thread attached to this post, the readership perceives the CBS shot a completely different way.  The collective sees Ney not as an empathetic figure, but as a trapped and fearful one.  Regarding the second photo, the consensus is that this is a “cheaper” shot.  The point offered is, why resort to caricature when the initial image offers a more complex and revealing depiction of a man haunted?

In review, I believe my point about image selection is a valid one, but the example is contextually off.  As the thread emphasizes, the point (and strength) of the initial image is not what Ney has done, so much as what Ney faces, and has become.

(image 1 and 2: Haraz N. Ghanbari/AP.  Oct. 13, 2006, in Washington.  cbs.com and YahooNews.)

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Michael Shaw
See other posts by Michael here.

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