Document Type

Thesis - Open Access

Award Date


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)

Department / School

Journalism and Mass Communications

First Advisor

Woodrow P. Wentzy


This study examines how editors respond to a selection of news photographs that show human suffering and misfortune. This study is based on a study done in 1965 by the editors of Columbia Journalism Review. That study was an informal one in which six journalists were given ten photographs that had been published in magazines and newspapers, and asked whether they would use the photographs, and what the rationale was for their choices. This study uses the same 10 photographs used by the Columbia Journalism Review study but with 64 daily newspaper editors in the Upper Midwest. The earlier study was chosen as a basis for this one because the photographs had been used in a judging situation and it was possible to reproduce and present them in a similar way to the editors selected for this study. It would be possible to compare the selections of the two groups to discover if violent photographs have become more acceptable to editors in the past 15 years. The earlier study did not seek background information about its six editors. This study does look for relationships that might exist between editors’ photo selection and their ages, education, and types and lengths of journalistic experience. City and circulation size are also analyzed. This study asks: 1) If these background factors do help predict editor’s choices in violent photographs, how significant are these factors in the choice? 2) What factors do editors believe to be significant in determining their choices? 3) How do editors use violent photographs? And 4) When do they choose not to use them? Another question in this study concerns how readers are perceived by editors. Do editors believe that their readers see the world as increasingly violent? Do editors see themselves and their newspapers as opinion setters, thus contributing in part to their readers’ views on violence? Are editors consciously trying to change public perceptions about violence?

Library of Congress Subject Headings

Violence in mass media



Number of Pages



South Dakota State University