November 8, 2005
Dear HonestReporting Canada subscriber:
Advertising executive Fred R. Barnard was right when he coined the expression “one picture is worth a thousand words.” Images influence people more profoundly than text, a fact well-known to political activists who want to manipulate news coverage in their favour. Taking advantage of the old news maxim “if it bleeds, it leads,” they create emotionally-charged, and at times violent situations that make for powerful images. Photojournalists obligingly capture the images, which wire services such as Reuters and The Associated Press send around the world. When published in newspapers, the resulting photographs often have a greater impact than the adjacent news articles.
Images Are More Powerful Than Words
On November 5, two Canadian newspapers — the Regina Leader-Post and the Windsor Star — published photos alongside articles about Israel. While the articles were about the anniversary of the assassination of Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, the photos were entirely unrelated. They showed protesters confronting Israeli soldiers at the site of Israel’s security barrier near the West Bank village of Bilin.
Accompanied only by a brief caption and lacking the added context of a full news article, the photos dramatized the controversy over the construction of Israel’s security barrier. While news coverage of the security barrier has quieted down in recent months, these photos keep the issue alive, and generate sympathy for opposition to the barrier by showing unarmed protesters clashing with armed Israeli soldiers.
News Media: Manipulation or Collaboration?
But this was not the first time such news photos appeared in the Canadian media. In the past few months alone, HonestReporting Canada has found similar pictures in The Edmonton Journal, The Edmonton Sun, The Globe and Mail, The Charlottetown Guardian, The London Free Press, The Record (Kitchener, Cambridge and Waterloo), The Star-Phoenix (Saskatoon), The Toronto Star, and The Vancouver Sun.
These photos are part of an ongoing campaign in which photojournalists and newswires are willing participants. Agitators turn up every week, provoking a police or military response. Professional cameramen dutifully document the event, and news agencies distribute the images to newspapers around the world. The captions provided by the newswires rarely (if ever) remind readers that Israel built the security barrier to defend its citizens from deadly terror attacks, and the barrier has dramatically reduced infiltrations from the West Bank, saving hundreds of lives.
How You Can Make a Difference
HonestReporting Canada encourages you to monitor your local media for photos of staged protests. If such images do appear, contact the editor and point out that (a) the photo depicts an event manufactured for the media, and (b) the caption lacks the necessary context to fairly and accurately inform readers.
Thank you for your ongoing commitment to fair and accurate
media coverage of Israel and the Middle East