Not worth a thousand words

My opinion of the news media was not very positive prior to last year’s terrorist attack, and it hasn’t improved in the months since then. One of the reasons is the consistently arrogant and condescending tone that journalists adopt when addressing their audience. Their attitude seems to be that we are ignorant and simpleminded children, and that journalists, who are the only ones who know The Truth, have to spoon-feed us information, using pretty pictures and words of one syllable.
For an example of what I mean, look at this article on the CNN website. The actual text of the article is fine, but the pictures are insulting. The article has a total of three illustrations, not one of which conveys any meaningful information. Yet someone at CNN believed that these works of art would somehow help us comprehend the article, or they would not have spent time creating them.
There was a time when news articles were accompanied by illustrations that were directly related to the topic at hand. Photographs of the actual subject of the article were best, but artists’ renderings of the subject, if they were skillfully done and didn’t take liberties with the truth, were also good. And graphs that interpreted statistical data or illustrated trends were helpful as well. But somewhere along the line, it became customary to include pictures with every article, whether they were actually helpful or not — and if no relevant or useful illustrations were available, then artists would create something eye-catching, even if made no actual sense.
Such as a photograph of a computer screen entirely filled with zeros and ones. If you had never seen a real computer before, you might find that sort of thing plausible. But this is 2002, and we all use computers every day. We know that they don’t display screens full of zeros and ones, because that would be useless. So what is the point of the picture? Does CNN really think we’re that ignorant and naive?
Apparently so.

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