Picturing the World’s News

A review of Picturing the World’s News: News Photography, Cultural Production, Thomson Reuters and the International Process of News Making, by Jonathan Ilan.

What is news? Which events make headlines or shape and shake global communities? Scholars in the field of global media studies and global history, such as Terhi Rantanen and Oliver Boyd-Barrett, have tackled these questions in the recent past. Focusing on global news agencies such as Reuters, Associated Press, and the Wolff Telegraphic Bureau, they have analyzed primarily the written word. The global news image, by contrast, has remained mere subtext which frames and illustrates the text. Yet, as this dissertation shows, news pictures are news and are newsworthy in themselves. In Picturing the World’s News, Jonathan Ilan examines the cultural production process of news pictures at Thomson Reuters’ news agency. Employing participant observation, in-depth interviews, and intensive archival research, Ilan ably examines what constitutes news in photographic form and what makes it newsworthy in today’s globalized news world.

The dissertation will prove helpful to those interested in the contemporary processes of constituting and determining “news” through the photographic lens. Through his methodology of participant observation, Ilan offers incomparable insights into the work of photographers and news agencies on the ground, and is able to trace a picture’s biography from the moment it was first conceived as an idea to its final form as a news picture. His work shows the process of producing a news picture as an open system of intricate interrelations between producers and audience, as well as a circulatory system between photographer, image desk, and newspaper. On the one hand, the dissertation uncovers the forces and manipulations at play within powerful media institutions which “produce” news; on the other hand, it makes visible the interplay of local, national, and international structures.

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Jacqueline Nivard

Jacqueline Nivard, Centre d'études sur la Chine moderne et contemporaine

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