January 24, 2005

Readers Speak: The Power of a Picture Survey Results

This Readers Speak survey was sponsored by the Associated Press Managing Editors National Credibility Roundtables Project through its Reader Interactive initiative. A total of 29 news organizations sent email to about 11,000 regular readers, and 2,461 responses were received from 45 states and the District of Columbia. Editors involved with APME invited their staffs to answer the same questions, gathering 419 responses from 36 states and the District of Columbia.

The results are not scientific; readers who responded are likely to be among the more interactive that newspapers have. They were polled because they had given their email address to their local newspaper, and comments were taken only online.

The National Credibility Roundtables Project is funded through a grant from the Ford Foundation, and is intended to help the media address the credibility crisis that exists with the public. The Reader Interactive initiative, as part of that project, has assisted newsrooms around the country in setting up reader email networks so that editors can be in better touch with readers. On occasion, the newsrooms involved in that initiative work together on a national Readers Speak survey such as this one.

Those responding to the survey about graphic news images were asked to view five photographs, then comment on where (or if) they would run the image. A breakdown appears below, with journalists’ response rate on the left, readers’ on the right. (The survey and images under discussion can be seen at http://www.apme-credibility.org/survey.)

Question 1: This image shows a grieving mother among children who had been killed in the tsunami. Would you run this photo?

1 – On front page of newspaper and on website: 41%/26%
2 – On inside page of newspaper and on website: 26%/30%
3 – On website only: 1%/10%
4 – Only link to an outside source from website: 1%/7%
5 – Would not run image at all: 22%/25%

Question 2: This image is one of three capturing the executions of two Iraqi elections workers by terrorists in Baghdad. Would you run this photo?

1 – On front page of newspaper and on website: 38%/34%
2 – On inside page of newspaper and on website: 37%/31%
3 – On website only: 4%/8%
4 – Only link to an outside source from website: 3%/5%
5 – Would not run image at all: 17%/21%

Question 3: This image shows an American soldier who had been seriously wounded in Iraq. He later died from these injuries. Would you run this photo?

1 – On front page of newspaper and on website: 40%/30%
2 – On inside page of newspaper and on website: 34%/29%
3 – On website only: 3%/6%
4 – Only link to an outside source from website: 2%/5%
5 – Would not run image at all: 21%/30%

Question 4: This image shows the flag-draped coffins of American soldiers, returning to the United States after they were killed overseas in the war on terror. Would you run images like this?

1 – On front page of newspaper and on website: 92%/66%
2 – On inside page of newspaper and on website: 6%/17%
3 – On website only: >1%/3%
4 – Only link to an outside source from website: 0%/1%
5 – Would not run image at all: 1%/12%

Question 5: This image shows American Nick Berg, shortly before he was beheaded by terrorists. Far more graphic images of his killing were available. Would you run images from the beheading?

1 – On front page of newspaper and on website: 22%/16%
2 – On inside page of newspaper and on website: 17%/12%
3 – On website only: 5%/7%
4 – Only link to an outside source from website: 8%/9%
5 – Would not run images at all: 47%/55%

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