War reporting sets public opinion ablaze.
“You furnish the pictures, I’ll furnish the war.”— William Randolph Hearst
And thus, war reporting was born.
The American public is bombarded with war reports. Some call for protests, others for support and all call for attention. The weapon of choice in this information war is photographs, or photojournalism to be more precise. Since pictures are worth a thousand words, they often resonate with readers more than cold, “black and white” facts on paper ever will.
But what happens when the pictures stop speaking and the public starts?
War. War happens. The current one is waged between those who support the right to know and those who feel that this right is wrong. How much do readers and consumers want to know? Are readers comfortable with being exposed to the horrors of war? Most importantly, are they really getting the full story?
War reporting often breeds propaganda, a seedy news parasite that (in turn) breeds mistrust. When Hearst made this statement, he did so in good faith; America was on the brink of starting a war with Spain. Hearst knew that all he needed to sway public opinion on said war was a few pictures and sub-par supportive text. His exaggeration and knack for propaganda was a leading cause of US entry into the Spanish-American war.
This press privilege speaks volumes about the power of the printed word and the predicament of those who seek information; they never really know if they receive the right kind.
Maybe once the camera stops rolling, the truth will start rolling. And then, maybe then…the full stories will be told.