Tuesday, March 20, 2007

News and Media Archives

News agencies often use archived pictures and video clips for re-publishing in general news articles. This method of placing back-dated clips or pictures however can mislead audience to perceive the visuals as occurring only recently.

Just yesterday, a friend of mine was perturbed when she saw her picture appear in an article of a local newspaper which was taken by the press two years ago for an event. Although the picture from the archive is appropriate for the theme of the article in illustrating the dependency of good teacher-pupil relationship in providing effective teaching, it is seemingly 'incorrect' to portray it as part of a recent news relating to a subject discussed in Parliament concerning a new method of assessing teachers under the Enhanced Performance Measurement System, especially when it is published without prior permission from the person in the picture. This, however, is how it is with news reporting. Where a piece of news has been accepted for publishing by the press, all its content essentially becomes the property of the news agency, in which the agency reserve all rights to do anything they want with it. Such content once published is deemed to be for the 'public' eye, hence, can no longer be considered private, which would require the agency to seek permission before re-publishing. However, if the picture is being misused to convey something not relating to the original intent, the matter can then be brought up for scrutiny.

Take the example of the news station that presented an archived video clip of the celebration by Iraqis after the September 11, 2001 event where the twin World Trade Center towers were destroyed in New York. This piece of news was telecast throughout the world and created much hatred, resulting in Gulf War II. The video clip in question, however, is not shown 'live' from Iraq, but from an archive in the library. In reality, nothing of that celebration took place, yet by telecasting the clip immediately after showing the video of what happened to the World Trade Center, audience's perception was misplaced, resulting in hate.

The issue being discussed here is not to determine the extent in which the journalism code must be adhered or about what is and what is not ethical. It is about how audience must perceive news that is found in the newspapers and television news. To this end, my hope is for all of us as readers of news, to learn to see beyond what is written in the text, so as to decipher for ourselves what is true and untrue, what is real and unreal, and what is right or wrong.