Improving representation through a solutions lens: Photojournalists’ perception and implementation of solutions visual journalism

Abstract: This study explores the use of solutions visual journalism as a practice to improve media representation of vulnerable populations. A solutions-oriented approach involves reporting on what people are doing in response to a problem. In-depth interviews were conducted both before and after photographers carried out a grant-funded photo project as part of the inaugural worldwide Solutions Visual Journalism Initiative. Findings will explore solutions visual journalism from the creator’s perspective and how it may improve representation.

Assessing diversity in visual journalism through photographer, subject and community demographics

Abstract: This study explores diversity of newsrooms and community coverage through the lens of feature photographs. Feature photos offer a slice-of-life presentation of a community, and photojournalists often are able to find their own subject matter. Thus, we predict that a more diverse newsroom will result in feature photos that more accurately represent the demographics of its coverage area. This is explored through a content analysis of 92 U.S. newspapers in a two-year time period.

How does a solutions focus change the frame of documentary photography?

Abstract: This event explored what a solutions focus in documentary photography and photojournalism involves, why it is important, and show some recent work that embraced this alternative frame. Indonesian photographer Michael Eko and American photographer Celia Talbot Tobin presented work they produced for the Solutions Visual Journalism Initiative. They were joined by Kyser Lough, who discussed his research on visual communication and solutions journalism, with an emphasis on photojournalism.

The Future of Photojournalism

Kyser Lough (October 2021) Panelist: “The Future of Photojournalism.” South Carolina Humanities’ Picturing Democracy series. Charleston, South Carolina. 

Using a headshot assignment to incorporate critical theory into photojournalism classrooms

Abstract: This case study uses a diversity and critical thinking exercise in a photojournalism class to show how journalism educators can incorporate race and gender conversations about ethics and judgement into traditionally skills-oriented courses. It’s crucial that journalism students learn how to apply their skills properly in an era of social unrest, inequality, and dwindling media trust. Democratic citizenship and journalism are intertwined, but often the bigger ethical conversations are left out of skills-oriented courses. This can lead to a disconnect among the skills themselves and the responsibility of practicing the skills, especially when it comes to matters of power and representation. The field of photojournalism remains predominately white and male, which makes it all the more crucial for students to interrogate their own bases to ensure ethical coverage of their communities.

The assignment asked students to make 36 portraits of strangers, and the subsequent classroom exercise has them confront their inherent biases by looking at the demographics of the people they photographed compared to the general population. Data for this case study consists of observations of the classroom conversations and a reflexive journalism exercise the students completed afterwards. Findings indicated this exercise was a successful way to introduce racial and gender considerations as part of photojournalistic ethics and judgement. Students initially neglected to think about representation and diversity in their selection of people to photograph, but afterwards said they could effectively incorporate reflexivity into their work in an effort to provide more representative imagery and confront their own biases.

Routine and individual-level influences of newspaper front-page images: A study of wire photographs, staff photojournalism, race and gender

Abstract: Influences upon the visual content of US front pages are assessed at two levels. At the routine-level, visual differences are compared based on whether photographs are taken by on-staff photojournalists or are wire-provided. At the individual-level, differences are assessed based on the photographer’s race and gender. This study uncovers visual implications of fewer staff photojournalists in present day newspapers, a news image environment increasingly dominated by a small number of central agencies, and the visual consequences brought about by more or less diverse photojournalists.

Sign this or go home: Concert photography agreements as restrictive image control devices

Abstract: Photojournalists covering concerts are increasingly being asked to sign photo agreements in exchange for access to the venue. These agreements sometimes include restrictive terms that begin to limit editorial freedoms and copyright ownership of the images, which can be seen as a problematic form of image control. This study is the first to explore the details of these terms through a content analysis of 284 concert photography agreements.

Judging photojournalism: The metajournalistic discourse of judges at the Best of Photojournalism and Pictures of the Year contests

(Forthcoming) Abstract: This study promotes how discussions during photojournalism award judging can be used as metajournalistic discourse to gain insight about the definition, boundaries and legitimization of the field. Journalism awards signal value, but the deliberation process offers richer insight via the judges’ comments. This study explores that process in two stages through discourse analysis of publicly-available video of judging rounds from two photojournalism competitions, Best of Photojournalism (BOP) and Pictures of the Year International (POYi). The first stage explores the ways in which judges talk about the photos and develops a framework for future analysis of contest judging. The second stage analyzes this discourse. Findings indicate that storytelling and emotion are key defining and legitimizing aspects of photojournalism, photojournalist’s actions and gear serve as boundary devices and the ongoing conversation about problematic misrepresentation in photojournalism is recognized but needs more emphasis.

Solutions in Photojournalism: Visually reporting beyond the problem-based narrative

Jennifer Midberry, Kyser Lough, & Tara Pixley (2020). Solutions in Photojournalism: Visually reporting beyond the problem-based narrative. In Dahmen, N. (chair) panel at the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication Conference, San Francisco.

Description: This panel will overview constructive journalism and then delve into current research findings, including the production, presentation, and effects of constructive journalism photographs.