After some time of preparation and strenuous revising, my article on “The photographic legacy of journalistic objectivity” is now out online in Media History. With images.
My basic argument is that the emergence of an ideal of objectivity in American journalism and the photomechanical processes that made photography available as photography in mass print (via the halftone process of reproduction) need to be considered in conjunction. The debate about the value of images and the advantages and deficiencies of certain illustration techniques prefigured the formulation of an ideal of objectivity in journalism, that was, at least until the end of the 19th century, heavily imbued with photographic metaphors. The article appears as part of a special issue of Media History (Volume 21, Issue 3), edited by Marcel Broersma and John Steel on “Redefining Journalism During the Period of the Mass Press 1880–1920” (See the introduction).
Objectivity has been regarded as a central ideal of American journalism in the early twentieth century. The concurrent emergence of photography in the press is rarely associated with this development. The article explores the photographic legacy of journalistic objectivity by discussing a crucial phase in the development of reproduction media for images, the transition from wood engravings to halftones. The former was the dominant mode of ‘illustrated journalism’, the latter became the dominant mode of reproducing photojournalism in print in the twentieth century. The halftone process introduced an equivalence between photographs and their reproductions, obliterating the mediation that had taken place in a code of reproduction that was almost imperceptible. In the contested adoption of the halftone process, it is argued, a shifting valuation of photographs can be observed that prefigures the formulation of objectivity as a transparent code of mediation in journalism.
Raetzsch, Christoph (2015). ““Real Pictures of Current Events“: The Photographic Legacy of Journalistic Objectivity.” Media History 21(3): 294-312. doi:10.1080/13688804.2015.1053387.
First 50 readers can use the free download: http://www.tandfonline.com/eprint/kYfHUuTBSuEDkeutF2wP/full