Israeli Media: Photo Deflation

A University of Haifa study finds that fewer than one in five newspaper photographs are actual news photos.

Hillel Fendel, | updated: 17:18

Israeli media
Israeli media

More than 86% of the news photographs in major Israeli newspapers are archive photos, and were not taken at the day before publication. So finds a new and original study carried out at the University of Haifa for its Second Photojournalism Conference, entitled "Photojournalism: From Hard to Soft News?". The conference took place at the university on Monday.

"The photograph in Israeli media is no longer worth a thousand words, but much less," says Dr. Amir Gilat, Head of the Division of Communications and Media Relations at the University of Haifa, who carried out the study.

"The results clearly show that the value of the news photo in Israeli media is decreasing, and that only a few of the photos tell the journalistic story as expected," Gilat explained. "Most of the photos serve as visual means alongside reports, sometimes with no real connection to them."

The survey examined all of the photographs published in the news pages of three daily newspapers in Israel: Yediot Acharonot, Haaretz, and the freebie Yisrael Hayom, over the course of one month in July-August 2009. Only press photos were counted, as opposed to advertisements, announcements, caricatures, graphs and drawings.

The most prominent finding was that the vast majority of the news page photographs were not taken at the actual scene of the event or even nearby. 90% of the shots in Yediot, and 86% of those in Haaretz and Yisrael Hayom were not taken the day before publication.

In many cases, the newspapers used "multipurpose" photos, such as a forest or street, that did not illustrate the story and only provided a visual accompaniment to the item. "We would expect to see photos from the events themselves on the news pages," Gilat lamented, "but this is not the case. Photos on the news pages do not represent classic photojournalism – they do not tell a story; they are frequently recycled and serve to adorn the texts, sometimes manipulating the reader into thinking that the photographs are new and present actual news."

It was also found that Haaretz published an average of 42 news photographs a day, compared with 38 for each of the other two papers surveyed. The survey further revealed that credit is not always given to the photographer or source of the photo; between 14% and 24% of the photos in the three papers went credit-less.

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