Chile and Photojournalism

By Jennifer Busby

When an earthquake hits, reporters are on the ground before troops are.

Brian Williams, anchor of NBC Nightly News, said that his crew touched down in Haiti after the January earthquake before the military planes arrived.

With reporters came a flood of stories, videos, and photographs. The still images from the devastation captured moments throughout the region and conveyed huge amounts of information to viewers.

Slideshows have the power to deepen readers’ understanding of a story. They also have the strength of timeliness. As with the earthquake in Haiti, photographs are an essential element of the information coming from Chile. After the 8.8 earthquake that hit Chile on Feb. 27, we can see exactly what’s happening without having to wait for a written story to materialize.

It is important to convey a balance of images that accurately reflects what’s going on the situation. If a photographer only captures images of looting, readers are given a biased story. The same would happen if all the written stories about the earthquake focused only on that aspect.

Explanation is also important. The slideshow on the New York Times website provides brief, fact-packed captions that serve to give context to each image. The same picture of a woman hunched over in a wheelchair could be a woman who was injured before the earthquake or after—it is only the caption that lets readers know the difference.

These slideshows also provide more content than would practically fit in the print edition of a paper. More stories can be told in high-resolution and full-color on the website than would fit on the front page of the daily paper.

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