Wednesday, December 22, 2004

The Year In Pictures & Media Bias

One of my favorite features on MSNBC.com is their 'Week in Pictures' segment. Every week they put together a slide show of some really beautiful work, some from the news, some just artistic. At the end of each slide show, you can vote on your favorite pictures. It's always an enjoyable way to spend 10 minutes or so.

Anyway, they now have the 50-odd readers choice pictures posted from the last years worth of pictures called, obviously, 'The Year in Pictures', which we can now also vote on, presumably for the readers choice picture of the year.

But there's a twist. In addition to the 'Readers Choice' pictures, voted on by the general public, there are also the 'Editors Choice' selections. Now, there is of course nothing wrong with that. But it is tremendously interesting to see what the people chose as their favorite images, and what the editors chose. Even the way they preface the selections is very telling. Under the 'Readers Choice' title, they write, "Your Favorities from The Week In Pictures". Under the 'Editors Choice' title they write "We Pick The Best Images Of The Year". Oh really? So only their trained eyes are qualified to pick the 'best' images (whatever that means), while the thousands of ordinary people who actually visit their site and took the time to vote on these same images somehow cannot recognize the 'Best'. Sheesh.

This may seem like nitpicking, and maybe it is, but it is also highly indicitave of the elitist attitude we find permeating our journalistic institutions. We the public simply cannot be trusted to decide things for ourselves... sure we can like whatever we want, but at the end of the day, it is of course best to defer the really important decisions to our educated betters in the chattering class.

And this is not even mentioning the stark contrast in content between the two categories (remember that both sets were chosen from the same pool of images). Sure there are a couple of overlaps (literally one or two) where the great unwashed masses chose correctly, but for the most part the difference between what we the people actually like, and what the editors think we should like are two very different things. For the most part, the people chose photos of beautiful landscapes, animals, families and other serene topics. The editiors, however, felt it necessary to emphasize war, conflict, and especially the American military under fire, in the worst possible light. Bloody Iraqi and Afghan civillians, scared young soldiers, the charred bodies of those brutally murdered Blackwater contractors, and of course Abu Ghraib made up a good chunk of what the editors consider to be the 'best pictures of the year', regardless of what the public thinks of them. No pictures of confident soldiers looking determined to carry out their mission. No proud Iraqi police, excited to finally try to take the reigns of security in their fragile country. Nothing like that.

Now of course the editors are entitled to their opinion, just as anyone else is. And they are more than welcome to use their website to show us what they consider to be important and worthy of our attention, but this whole think reeks of condecention and elitist smarm. And it also graphically points out the very real chasm that exists between mainstream thought and the attitudes of those who bring us our news and information in the big media.

Check it out for yourself:
http://msnbc.msn.com/id/6687413/


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