Photo Illustration in U.S. Newsmagazines during the Past Three Decades

by Lo, Yuk-Kwong Edmund

Abstract (Summary)
Photo illustrations used in news context have raised dozens of credibility and ethical issues in photojournalism in the last few decades. Controversial aspects about the practice were mainly how the photo illustrations were photographed and presented and the way they were labeled. General discussions are plenty within the industry; however, systematic and quantitative studies on this topic are scarce and long-needed for examining the issue. This study examined three decades of three major newsmagazines in the United States, i.e. Time, Newsweek, and U.S. News and World Report. The researcher studied the newsmagazines' use of photo illustrations in terms of frequency and size; the ways of labeling the photo illustrations; the style of presenting the photo illustrations; and the subject categories the photo illustrations were intended to illustrate. Content analysis was used as the method for this study. A total of 252 sample issues from seven constructed years were randomly selected from 1974 to 2004. Data were collected and analyzed with Spearman's rho test and chi-square test to show the relationships and differences among the variables. This study found that there was a significant trend of increased use of photo illustrations and increase of space devoted to photo illustrations in the three combined newsmagazines in the past three decades. Also, labeling of photo illustrations became a mainstream practice after 1989. However, the majority of labels of photo illustrations were not easy to read and presented only minimum information to the readers. Nearly one fourth of the photo illustrations were presented in a realistic-looking style, and the subject categories illustrated by the photo illustrations were diversified over time. A distinct change in use of photo illustrations happened sometime during 1984 to 1989, which showed a sudden increase in frequency of using photo illustrations, labeling of photo illustrations, and usage of realistic-looking style for photo illustrations. These sudden changes might likely be contributed to the advance and rapid proliferation of digital imaging technology and media competition in that period of time.
Bibliographical Information:


School:Ohio University

School Location:USA - Ohio

Source Type:Master's Thesis

Keywords:photo illustration newsmagazine credibility photojournalism manipulation ethics


Date of Publication:01/01/2008

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