instruere...inlustrare...delectare Disputations

Friday, January 23, 2004

Quiz Time

Suppose you are a photo editor with a major metropolitan newspaper. A news story about a controversial subject needs some photographs above the fold on the front page of the Metro section. The story reports that "Tens of thousands" on one side of the controversy marched through the streets, forming a parade that stretched through "several long blocks" of your city.

Those on the other side of the controversy responded, "not with a mass demonstration but with ... news conferences, dinners ... and vigils."

What photographs do you choose to accompany the story?

If you work at The Washington Post, and the news story is about the 2004 March for Life, you choose two photographs, one showing several pro-life marchers (including two pro-life signs), the other showing just a few pro-life marchers (including two pro-life signs) completely surrounded by pro-abortion demonstrators (including six pro-abortion signs).

That's balance, in the editorial judgment of The Washington Post.

There were a couple of other pictures -- one at the bottom of the front page showing a group of high school students holding a banner in the March for Life, the other a black-and-white on the jump page of the Metro section article showing a priest holding a crucifix -- but the primary impression of the large color photos next to the top of the article is of roughly equal numbers, with the pro-abortion side having a slight edge.

The article itself gives a much fairer representation -- just two of the eighteen paragraphs present "the other side of the issue" -- but notice the segue from the headline to the lead:
Abortion Protest Draws Thousands
Marchers Brave Cold to Speak Out Against 1973 Roe v. Wade Decision
Tens of thousands of antiabortion advocates marched to the U.S. Supreme Court yesterday....
The headline writer has his thousands, and the reporter has his ten thousands....