Lecture 7 • M Sep 17 • Today’s Lineup
Stereotypes in the visual media
VisCom ethics in professional and philosophical contexts
Conclude the introductory unit
Photojournalists operate as trustees of the public. Our primary role is to report visually on
the significant events and varied viewpoints in our common world. Our primary goal is the
faithful and comprehensive depiction of the subject at hand. As photojournalists, we have
the responsibility to document society and to preserve its history through images.
Photographic and video images can reveal great truths, expose wrongdoing and neglect,
inspire hope and understanding and connect people around the globe through the language
of visual understanding. Photographs can also cause great harm if they are callously intrusive
or are manipulated.
—National Press Photographers Association (NPPA)
Code of Ethics, July 2004
Stereotypes in the visual media
1. What is a stereotype?
2. How do stereotypes originate?
3. How do they work in our mental processes?
4. According to Lester, how do the media affect stereotypes?
5. Why are visual messages especially dangerous in perpetuating stereotypes?
6. What can we do as individuals to counter the old stereotypes we have and the new ones we receive?
7. What can we do as visual communicators to avoid creating new stereotypes or perpetuating
VisCom ethics in professional context
Journalistic ideals: truth, accuracy, objectivity, fairness, balance, responsibility to inform
When these journalistic ideals collide with humanist ideals, ethical issues arise.
Truth is the most fundamental ideal. Photographic falsehood occurs in two ways:
a. Alterations before the picture is taken: directing people, moving objects in/out
of the frame
b. Alterations after the picture is taken: airbrush, darkroom, digital manipulation
NPPA Code of Ethics
Photojournalists and those who manage visual news productions are accountable for upholding the follow-
ing standards in their daily work:
1. Be accurate and comprehensive in the representation of subjects.
2. Resist being manipulated by staged photo opportunities.
3. Be complete and provide context when photographing or recording subjects. Avoid stereotyping
individuals and groups. Recognize and work to avoid presenting one’s own biases in the work.
4. Treat all subjects with respect and dignity. Give special consideration to vulnerable subjects and
compassion to victims of crime or tragedy. Intrude on private moments of grief only when the
public has an overriding and justifiable need to see.
5. While photographing subjects do not intentionally contribute to, alter, or seek to alter or
6. Editing should maintain the integrity of the photographic images’ content and context. Do
not manipulate images or add or alter sound in any way that can mislead viewers or
7. Do not pay sources or subjects or reward them materially for information or participation.
8. Do not accept gifts, favors, or compensation from those who might seek to influence coverage.
9. Do not intentionally sabotage the efforts of other journalists.
VisCom ethics in philosophical context: four perspectives
1. Golden mean. Faced with a dilemma between using a controversial photograph and running
none at all, compromise by finding an alternate image that’s less offensive.
2. Golden Rule. “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” Base decisions on seeing
yourself or your loved ones in the image.
3. Social utility. Utilitarianism, developed in England by Jeremy Bentham (1748-1832). Society
over individual: Base decisions on what will produce “the greatest happiness, or good, for the
greatest number of people.”
4. Categorical imperative. Immanuel Kant, (1724 –1804, Germany). Individual over society.
Never use people as means to ends. Individuals should not be exploited for larger purpose, even if it
is socially useful. “So act as to use humanity … as an end, never simply as a means.”
Spectrum of ethical attitudes/practices among journalists:
1. Some newspapers/tv outlets run sensational photos/video for financial gain.
2. Corporative ownership concerned with marketing desires not to offend customers. So some
newspapers avoid any photos likely to offend.
3. Some journalists personally believe such photos are never appropriate.
4. Some journalists argue that if the photo/video is newsworthy, the media should not practice
5. Many believe there are occasions when publishing such photographs is justified, but that each case
must be decided on its own merits. Does the benefit outweigh any potential harm?
6. The Norfolk, Virginia Pilot-Ledger, sought permission from a victim’s family before publishing a
Most readers are likely to identify with the victims. Golden rule. Most think journalists publish such pho-
tos and run such video to make money. Cynicism.
Questions editors should ask about problematic images/video
1. Is there a compelling reason to publish?
2. What right do I have to subject my readers to disturbing pictures?
3. What obligation do I have to compel them to confront such images?
4. When a photograph shows something offensive to a segment of readers, should the newspaper
publish it to warn people that the offensive action is happening in society? Or should it not publish
to avoid offending some readers?
Categories of problematic photos/video
death grief fairness nudity
grave injury horror sexism bad taste
blood racism obscenity
Conclude the introductory unit
1. What have you learned so far about visual communications?
a. Though we take our seeing for granted, it is a complex operation.
b. Despite tune out, there are rewards for engaging in concentrated, purposeful seeing. We must
see better to be good visual communicators.
c. Color and composition (the visual elements and principles of design) are dimensions of visual
communications that apply to photography, video and graphic design.
d. Because visual communications is such a powerful tool, we need to be sensitive to the many ways
it is used and misused in the media. As consumers of visual messages, we need to be
critical of their contents. As producers of visual messages, we need to avoid stereotyping
individuals and groups and to act with the highest ethical standards.
2. How can you apply what you’ve learned to making photographs, a magazine spread and a video