"Although pictures are absolutely vital to keep viewers watching, it
is words which do the primary job of getting information across and
connecting highly discrete sequences. Try watching the news with the
sound turned down, if you want to test this point. It will be a much
harder business to make sense of it than with the vision turned down.
How is this 'telling' organized in relation to the 'showing'?
"Television journalism has a large number of modes and combinations for
mixing speech with image. Among the most prominent of these are:
"In the case of the interview, for example, the speech is absolutely primary;
the face of the speaker, though perhaps significant, is communicatively
of secondary importance. In a report about a flooded village, however,
or a rail disaster, the images are much more consequential. They serve
to 'access' us to the reality of the events reported, they engage
us as ecidence. It will often not be possible to show 'hard news'
action directly (although the use of amateur camcorder footage has
increasingly filled this 'gap' in news visualization), but its location
and its aftermath can be filmed and 'action impressions' generated
from the material...Frequently, however, despite the centrality of
action values to the world of TV news, journalism's pictures do not
contain such moments of heightened visual engagement. They serve,
instead, to connect us to the ongoing events of the world in less
intensive ways...It is frequently the job of journalistic speech
to do the main work in 'naming' what has happened and in describing
it: perhaps, subsequently, in accessing various judgements upon it
through interview. The pictures, despite their engaging general function
of allowing us to 'see for ourselves' (if rarely allowing us to see
an unplanned news event actually occuring), need speech to pin down
the 'what, where, when, how' of the story. We use the words to get
information from the images, we use the images as a context, perhaps
a strongly affective one, within which to interpret the words."
- Direct speech to camera by news presenter behind studio desk
- Direct speech to camera by reporter 'on location'
- Voiceover of news presenter over news images
- Voiceover of reporter over news images
- Interview speech of people variously 'in' the news or called
to comment upon it, whether reporter questioning is heard or not
- Speech exchange between news presenter in studio and location
reporter seen on studio monitor
- John Corner, "Broadcast Journalism and Public Knowledge," in
Dan Fleming (Ed.) Formations: A 21st Century Media Studies Textbook
(Manchester: Machester University Press, 2001).
Questions to Consider
- Try the experiment which Corner proposes - watching a news
segment without the sound and listening to the segment without
the pictures. What kinds of information gets communicated in each
experience? What kinds of information gets lost?
- Choose a news segment and analyze the functions played by words
and images. How do the words shape our understanding of those
images? Try writing a script for those same images but using different
words to reshape how we feel about what we are watching.
- Corner notes that we often are not able to directly witness
an unscheduled news event but often have to merely depict its
aftermath. In this case, however, at least the second crash into
the World Trade Center did appear live on television. How has
that impacted our response to the story? Some have speculated
that the reason there was a second crash was because the terrorist
wanted us to be able to watch the disaster live. Why might they
have made that choice?
- How might we contrast our response to the World Trade Center
crash (which the news has been able to replay) and the Pentagon
crash (which occured when no cameras were recording)? Does one
feel more real or immediate to you than the other?
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