Pet Peeve #66: When Tabloids Make It Look Like Two People Are in the Same Place

I’ve had this one on my list for a while, but I generally don’t get excited about grumbling about things, so I’ve been putting it off. But the time has come.

The subject line of this pet peeve is about tabloids. I’m sure you’ve seen this while waiting in line at the grocery store. A tabloid will have a blazing headline like, “Johnny Depp: “Not My Daughter!”, with a photo showing Johnny Depp glaring at Suri Cruise.

At a quick glance, it looks like Johnny Depp is in the same room as Suri Cruise, prompting you think, “Wow, they look really angry at each other!” But if you look closer, you’ll notice the slightest different in the backgrounds–they’re two completely separate, unrelated photos.

Tabloids have been doing this for years, and I’ve given them a free pass. Tabloids are sensationalist by nature. It’s what they do.

But the problem is that this technique has crossed over into more respectable forms of media, including my main source for sports news:

The reason I originally made a note of this pet peeve was a few weeks ago when I saw this photo:

The photo depicts ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith staring down LaVar Ball (who is famous for all the wrong reasons, which I won’t go into here). At a quick glance, it kind of looks like they’re actually speaking face to face, right? But of course they’re not in the same room. They’re not even talking to each other.

To me, this is unnecessarily manipulative photojournalism. If Stephen A. Smith and LaVar Ball were indeed talking about each other, the conversation could still be depicted in a combined photo, but it could be edited in a way that doesn’t try to trick us into thinking they’re in the same room talking to each other. ESPN has gone out of their way to depict something that never happened.

Is it just me, or are you bothered by this too? Where have you seen it?

3 thoughts on “Pet Peeve #66: When Tabloids Make It Look Like Two People Are in the Same Place”

  1. Have to agree. This is very frustrating. I mean look at this last election. The amount of false information that came out (on both sides) was startling. This is part of the reason that certain people (not going to name names) can get up and use the phrase “fake news.”

    I won’t go any further as it might start a discord, but this kind of journalism is unacceptable in my opinion.

  2. I worked in local news for 8 years – and it really is an interesting topic to dissect. In my opinion, news has shifted so drastically from integrity, to virality. It’s all about “how many eyes can we get on this.”

    Now, where it get’s interesting is akin to the chicken/egg debate.

    One can make a very strong argument that culture is at least partially to blame for this. If a network focuses on hard hitting journalism, and does not prioritize “Click Worthy” or “Stay on the channel” worthy headlines and copy… people literally change the channel. And TV stations don’t make money without viewership.

    So – who is to blame for the situation? Viewers who watch or Networks who do everything in their power to keep them watching?

    I’d put my answer on human nature. It’s human nature to want to see that crazy thing. It’s human nature to want there to have been a shouting match. It’s human nature to be horrified about the train wreck… but watch it and comment about it anyway. And – it’s human nature to want to make your industry survive, to attempt to adapt to shortened attention spans, a desire to tweet over research, and a desire to get your content out faster to beat your competition over making sure it’s great journalism.

    Of course, this just scratches the surface of a great topic!

    • A shift from integrity to virality…that’s a really acute observation. What you say about human nature certainly makes sense. I guess I just wish there were a better happy medium in some cases. 🙂


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