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Refocusing America: American Society Through the Camera's Lens, 1945-2000
Unformatted Document Text:  When addressing the Associated Press Managing Editors on September 10, 1943, William J. White, photo editor of the Daily News, articulated dominant perceptions of photography’s role in print media. It gives me a feeling of acute distress in a certain locality to hear newspaper men express themselves on pictures: `Oh, yes,’ they say. `Pictures have their place, of course. They help dress up a page.’ Rot! What do they mean, dress up a page? I have watched too many people turn the pages of their newspapers, glancing idly at each one until a picture appears, then stop to examine the picture and read the caption, totally ignoring the rest of the page which is being `dressed up’! 13 While White may have exaggerated somewhat when he charged that readers “totally ignore” text in their search for photos, he highlighted several key issues in his evaluation of the photographic medium. Candidly repudiating the popular belief that photography served solely an aesthetic purpose, White articulated not only photographs’ popular appeal, but their didactic function. Photographs wield a distinctive power of their own. Though this power by no means eclipsed text, photographs were consequently more fully integrated into the news structure. Their dual role as carriers “of truth-value and symbol, helping the public come to grips with the meaning of events at the same time they saw them” 14 was realized by members of the news organization. The graphic images of atrocities committed during the Holocaust in World War II speak to this point directly. Creating a visual discourse, Holocaust photographs revealed the inadequacy of words to sufficiently depict a horrific event in human history. Speaking in the wake of the Holocaust in 1947, Basil L. Walters, former executive editor of the Knight Newspapers, proclaimed the necessity of integrating visuals into text. The whole excuse for the printed page is to serve as a medium for the conveyance of a thought from one mind to another. If that thought can be conveyed by the written word, type should be used. If it can best be conveyed by a photograph, then a photograph should be used. If it can best be conveyed by an artist’s sketch, then an artist’s sketch should be used. Frequently all three methods must be combined. 15 13 William J. White, “The Daily Routine of a `Picture Newspaper’,” Journalism Quarterly December 1943: 309. 14 Barbie Zelizer, “From the Image of Record to the Image of Memory: Holocaust Photography, Then and Now”, in Picturing the Past : Media, History, and Photography ed. Bonnie Brennen and Hanno Hardt (Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 1999) 105. 15 Basil L. Walters, “Pictures vs. Type Display in Reporting the News,” Journalism Quarterly September 1947: 195.

Authors: Maurantonio, Nicole.
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background image
When addressing the Associated Press Managing Editors on September 10, 1943, William J.
White, photo editor of the Daily News, articulated dominant perceptions of photography’s role in print
media.
It gives me a feeling of acute distress in a certain locality to hear newspaper men express
themselves on pictures: `Oh, yes,’ they say. `Pictures have their place, of course. They
help dress up a page.’ Rot! What do they mean, dress up a page? I have watched too
many people turn the pages of their newspapers, glancing idly at each one until a picture
appears, then stop to examine the picture and read the caption, totally ignoring the rest
of the page which is being `dressed up’!
13
While White may have exaggerated somewhat when he charged that readers “totally ignore” text in their
search for photos, he highlighted several key issues in his evaluation of the photographic medium.
Candidly repudiating the popular belief that photography served solely an aesthetic purpose, White
articulated not only photographs’ popular appeal, but their didactic function. Photographs wield a
distinctive power of their own. Though this power by no means eclipsed text, photographs were
consequently more fully integrated into the news structure. Their dual role as carriers “of truth-value and
symbol, helping the public come to grips with the meaning of events at the same time they saw them”
14
was realized by members of the news organization. The graphic images of atrocities committed during
the Holocaust in World War II speak to this point directly. Creating a visual discourse, Holocaust
photographs revealed the inadequacy of words to sufficiently depict a horrific event in human history.
Speaking in the wake of the Holocaust in 1947, Basil L. Walters, former executive editor of the
Knight Newspapers, proclaimed the necessity of integrating visuals into text.
The whole excuse for the printed page is to serve as a medium for the conveyance of a
thought from one mind to another. If that thought can be conveyed by the written word,
type should be used. If it can best be conveyed by a photograph, then a photograph
should be used. If it can best be conveyed by an artist’s sketch, then an artist’s sketch
should be used. Frequently all three methods must be combined.
15
13
William J. White, “The Daily Routine of a `Picture Newspaper’,” Journalism Quarterly December 1943:
309.
14
Barbie Zelizer, “From the Image of Record to the Image of Memory: Holocaust Photography, Then and
Now”, in Picturing the Past : Media, History, and Photography ed. Bonnie Brennen and Hanno Hardt
(Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 1999) 105.
15
Basil L. Walters, “Pictures vs. Type Display in Reporting the News,” Journalism Quarterly September
1947: 195.


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