Flood photo galleries and their newsworthiness

The study “Their floods and Our floods: News values of flood photo galleries of Associated Press and Xinhua News Agency” by Hailing Yu and Guanfeng Chen from Hunan University investigated two news outlets, Associated Press (AP) and Xinhua News Agency (Xinhua) and how their photo galleries presented floods as newsworthy.

Photo galleries are a relatively new genre of news reporting. They are produced exclusively for the web and benefit from the lack of constraints the net environment offers, as space is limited in press publications. They are sometimes not restricted by the criteria for selecting photography for press, but some scholars consider them ideological in nature. 

The news outlets were chosen to be representative of US and and Chinese cultural and political backgrounds. Thus, the comparison may reveal how socio-cultural and political background affects the selection in online photos. The theoretical framework adopted here is Discursive News Values Analysis (DNVA).

In DNVA, news values are constructed through discourse using semiotic means such as image and text. The news values identified here in the visual discourse are: Aesthetic appeal, Consonance, Eliteness, Impact, Negativity, Personalization, Positivity, Proximity, Superlativeness, Timeliness, and Unexpectedness. The photos were coded for the news values identified in them.

There were similarities between the presentation. AP and Xinhua both presented the floods as Negative and severe (reflecting Superlativeness score). They also present ordinary people and institutions to roughly same degree, Personalization and Eliteness. They were also similar in Aesthetic Appeal, Consonance meaning stereotypical occurrences, and Unexpectedness. 

The differences between AP and Xinhua were in Positivity and Proximity. There was much more Positivity in AP than Xinhua (59% vs 20%), and the opposite in Proximity (27% AP and 68% Xinhua).

The authors also paid attention to how AP and Xinhua present ‘Their’ floods, that is, floods in other countries, and ‘Our’ floods, domestic floods. Both showed ‘Their’ floods in overwhelmingly negative and severe terms. The findings in regard to AP confirm to previous studies that non-Western countries in Western media are presented as being vulnerable to natural disasters.

With domestic floods, AP highlights Negativity, Impact and Personalization, while Xinhua raised up Negativity, Positivity, Personalization and Superlativeness. In Xinhua particularly, there is a markedly lessened Negativity comparing domestic floods to foreign. Photojournalists of Xinhua also highlighted the rescue attempt and the response, leading to much higher Positivity score for domestic floods.

The article “Their floods and Our floods: News values of flood photo galleries of Associated Press and Xinhua News Agency” by Hailing Yu and Guanfeng Chen 

is in Journalism. (open access).

Picture: Boat trip on a flooded river. By Jéan Béller @jeanbeller

License Unsplash.

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