Do Graphic Images Deter News Readers?

The news media often flocks to places where catastrophes strike.  We have seen this within the past few years with disasters both at home and in foreign countries.  Example of disasters where such graphic images have been taken by the news media is during and the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, the war in Iraq and Afghanistan, and most recently after the earthquake in Haiti.  We saw photos of death, destruction, naked bodies, and more.  The question is, how does the public react to these photos?  Is the public turned off by these images or do the images help them better understand the problems at hand?

In recent years, the news media, especially newspapers, have strayed away from graphic images that may disturb readers.  This is mostly because they do not want to offend what few readers they still have.  This is also true for localized newspapers that are more focused on what is happening within the community as opposed to global crisis.

However, in the online sphere, the rules are much more relaxed.  Often more graphic images are found online than in newspapers, and in higher quantities.  This is because the online news media believe that the Internet is less pervasive than the morning newspaper on the coffee table.  People can seek out the images if they want to see them without worrying about their children seeing the disturbing images.

However, many newspapers believe that showing such images is important for readers to understand what has happened.  For example, a news article can report that over 100 people died including 20 children.  However, the point may not come across strong enough until a picture of the death and destruction is shown along side the article.  To sum it up in a cliché, a picture says a thousand words.

Overall, pictures are important to the overall understanding of a news story.  I believe that the news media needs to include images to help readers relate to the stories better.  However, they also need to learn to be sensitive and courteous to the people involved in the incidents.  Harmony needs to be found between these two extremes.

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