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Perceiving Death in the News

Images of people about to die surface repeatedly in the news and their appearance raises questions: What equips an image to deliver the news; how much does the public need to know to make sense of what they see; and what do these images contribute to historical memory? These images call on us to rethink both journalism and its public response, and in so doing they suggest both an alternative voice in the news – a subjunctive voice of the visual that pushes the ‘as if’ of news over its ‘as is’ dimensions – and an alternative mode of public engagement with journalism – an engagement fueled not by reason and understanding but by imagination and emotion.

In About to Die: How News Images Move the Public, Barbie Zelizer suggests that a different kind of news relay, producing a different kind of public response, has settled into our information environment.

This video is posted courtesy of the University of Pennsylvania Annenberg School for Communication (c) 2010.

Barbie Zelizer is Raymond Williams Chair of Communication and the Director of the Scholars Program in Culture and Communication at the Annenberg School for Communication at the University of Pennsylvania. She is the editor of several collections and the author of Remembering to Forget: Holocaust Memory through the Camera’s Eye, Covering the Body: The Kennedy Assassination, the Media, and the Shaping of Collective Memory, and most recently About to Die: How News Images Move the Public.

If you’d like to learn more, you can watch Zelizer’s lecture from this December at McNally Jackson Books.

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