Media Quandary: Do Violent Images Inure or Inform?


Do graphic images of violence, like the mutilation inflicted recently upon corpses in Fallujah, Iraq, serve to inform, inflame or inure news consumers?

That was a question considered at a panel discussion in New York sponsored by the Dart Center for Journalism and Trauma, based at the University of Washington.

Most agreed graphic images must be accompanied by context, but panelist Brooke Gladstone of National Public Radio’s “On the Media” wondered how a journalist writing a daily story under deadline and space pressures can be expected to include the texture and background of an ethnic, racial, geographic or religious conflict dating 5,000 years.

He asked, “How on earth do you ever tell the story to anybody’s satisfaction when the feelings run so deep and the history is so long?”

“One direction that could be helpful is focusing on motivation,” said David Gelber, CBS News executive producer. “You have to report it, on the one hand, and yet you can avoid stereotyping by getting at motivation.”


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