The Power of Pictures

Posted: March 25, 2011 in Uncategorized

We’ve all heard the saying, “A picture is worth a thousand words” time and time again. As cliche as it is, I think there’s a lot of truth behind it.

I was reading an article by Andrea Elliot of The New York Times called “The Jihadist Next Door” about a young American boy who decided to move to the Middle East and support Al Qaeda as a jihad.

Although this article was well-written and I was sucked into reading the whole thing, the pictures and videos are what really made this story stand out.

This boy was a regular American boy growing up. He went to his prom. He played on the soccer team. He went to a Baptist church every Sunday. He didn’t live in poverty. He had two supportive parents. So what happened?

This is not an easy thing to comprehend. However, Elliot incorporated this interactive timeline with videos and pictures to help the story come to life. In one picture, he’s a normal teenager.

In the next, he’s taking part in suicide bombings at a high school graduation in Somalia, and the gruesome pictures tell it like it is.

I think pictures and video should be incorporated into news stories more often. It gives more options to the reader, and it makes the story more engaging. Most people enjoy the visual aspect — there seems to be less room for exaggeration, less room for error. Pictures don’t lie, and they get right to the point. Plus, if the reader isn’t interested in the pictures, they can skip right over them to read the story the old fashioned way.

For another example of how pictures and video make the story, take a look at Lane DeGregory’s Pulitzer Prize winning story, “A Girl in the Window.”

Can you think of any stories that are better told with pictures?

  1. Ellen Mrja says:

    I wonder if – now that the NYTimes has put its website behind a partial paywall – people will still travel to its site for these outstanding types of visual stories. I think it will hurt the Times. Do you?

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