Fake images are not the only concern

In English, we have this phrase “Seeing is believing.” In Chinese, we say “眼見為實(眼见为实) — To see is to believe.” On the internet, this new expression, “有圖(图)有真相 — No photo, no proof,” is also very popular in our part of the world.

In fact, many countries have very similar, or even identical, expressions; the idea seems universal. We tend to believe what we see with our own eyes.

That’s why photos and videos are an essential part of the news.

Images show what it’s like to be at the scene. Cameras serve as our eyes and ears. We feel like we understand news better with visual information because, like they say, a picture is worth a thousand words.

Here are some great aspects of photo and video journalism:

  • It makes us feel like we are witnessing the news event.
  • It grabs and brings our attention to crucial moments (sports news, for example).
  • It tends to stay longer in our memory, especially some iconic images of historical news events.
  • It captures and displays emotions of people in the news.

But there are a lot of issues we need to be aware of at the same time. In the age of PhotoShop, we all know that fake photos and videos are ubiquitous on social media.

Many of us have uncles and aunties who believe, and share, some outrageous “news” images that are clearly manipulated or look suspiciously unnatural.

But manipulation is not the only thing we need to be careful about. There are a lot of ways legitimate photos and videos can be misleading. On social media, some people borrow (or should we say steal?) photos and videos from old news events or other places.

Here’s another example during the recent Typhoon we had in Hong Kong, which AJ did not mention in the video:

Not all fake or misleading images are simple hoaxes, though. News photos and videos show only a glimpse of the whole action, which sometimes leads to misunderstanding. The Koi feeding incident AJ mentioned in the video is a good example:

Photojournalists can also dramatize the scene. Years ago, photographer Ruben Salvadori documented in Jerusalem this very issue.

There are many other techniques of photography and videography that could “trick” the news audience and we will discuss those in the next episode of Strapline (EP06).

Key Ideas
  • Image manipulation is everywhere on the internet.
  • Old pictures, photos from different locations, video games, movie scenes, and other irrelevant images also circulate often as current news images.
  • Photos and videos show only the glimpse of what really heppened, which can be very misleading sometimes.
  • Photographers and videographers have the skills to dramatize the situation and that could potentially misrepresent the news event as well.
  • There are many other photo/video techniques we should be aware of, which is the topic of next Strapline episode 🙂 🙂 🙂
For Teachers

Learning Outcome

Students will be able to develop a better understanding of how news photos are being made and chosen to be shown to the audience.

Suggested Activity

  • Divide the class into two groups. Protesters and photo/video journalists.
  • Choose a topic that is closely related to the students — something like deteriorating quality of food in student canteens.
  • “Protesters” prepare props and other materials for a march.
  • “Journalists” will be divided into subgroups and each group needs to decide what sort of media organization they work for (newspapers, TVs, online magazines, etc., with different target audiences).
  • Protesters march in the classroom (or outside), holding placards, shoting slogans, and demanding some actions.
  • Photo/video journalists take as many photos/videos from different angles, focusing on different people, objects, and actions.
  • After the march is over, journalist subgroups need to pick just one image, or 5-second video clip, that they will use to promote the story on social media.
  • All students then look at the photos/videos from different news outlets together and discuss potential issues including misrepresentation and dramatization.