wide angleWritten by Ciara Leeming
This is an interesting news image, which anyone living in the UK should be be familiar with by now. It was the illustration of choice for no fewer than NINE national newspapers when they reported the ‘mindless violence’ of students demonstrating outside the Tory party headquarters over the trebling of university fees on Wednesday. Students will now be leaving university with debts of upwards of £30,000 – which makes the £16,000 I and many of my generation came out owing the government and high street banks look positively small.
Here’s the thing though. This is, no doubt, a strong news image – and I can see why the picture editors were unanimous in their choice. Maybe it will do well at World Press Photo because of that – who knows. But there’s something else they were unanimous about as well – ie the crop. Click on the picture above and you’ll see what I mean. Two shots probably by two different photographers, both employed by the same media agency. Both will have been available on the PA wire to anyone who subscribes – and all papers do.
It might just be me but the wider view poses some interesting questions about the media’s role in events like this demo. Without all the photographers egging on people like this student, or EDL meatheads on extreme right-wing marches, would this kind of drama happen to the extent it does? No doubt there would still be violence but the unspoken collusion of the press pack makes me decidedly uncomfortable. We are, after all, a nation of wannabes waiting for their five minutes of fame. Notoriety or ritual public humiliation will often do (reality and daytime TV prove that).
If the rather ambiguous role of the media makes me squirm as someone who works in the press, do other journalists and editors share my sentiments? I may be wrong but the fact that all national picture desks went for the narrow crop over the wide angle makes me think they probably do. Maybe they just think it’s the better photo, that it tells the story better. I happen to disagree. The wide shot tells me everything I need to know and more. As the print business continues to evaporate, there seems to be a collective will to collude, self-censor, and avoid – at all costs – taking a critical stance on its own role and behaviour. Maybe it was always thus, I don’t know.