Photo Interpreting Stories: The Decline and Fall of Journalism #9

Photo interpreting has a long history on the internet. It began with blogs, then migrated to social media. 

It's pretty simple. At any major public event involving major public figures, there will be lots of photos taken. Some of those will be awkward. If you don't like the politician or celebrity in those photos, you pick out the awkward ones and laugh.

Serious newspapers didn't do that sort of thing. Except, now they do.

Body language: Photo of Merkel, Trump captures G-7 tensions - The Washington Post

The G-7 summit, summed up in one photo - The Washington Post

That's two photo interpreting stories from the Jeff Bezos paper, which claims to be all about serious journalism, but keeps discrediting its own claim.

The purpose of these pieces, capturing viral resistance click traffic, is obvious. But so is the erosion of anything resembling journalism. It's one of the million markers of the decline and fall of journalism. Pretending that photo interpretation is an actual story, instead of lefty clickbait further degrades whatever credibility the media has. (And the Washington Post isn't alone on this sad ride downhill.)

Anyone working this beat knows perfectly well that there are a million photos and that individual photos are usually meaningless. People's expressions change all the time. And people in a photo aren't necessarily looking at the things you think they are (perspective in a photo is tricky business) or thinking about what they're looking at. During any extended sessions, politicians who are actually human beings, will have all sorts of expressions move across their faces. That's why you can dive into any presidential meeting with a foreign leader and come out with two very different photos, one in which the leaders seem to hate each other, and the other where they're in love.

So the Washington Post knows perfectly that it's putting out worthless clickbait garbage. And it does it anyway.