Mixed Message

This is about the power of a photograph. It is also about the ineptitude of mass media.

Apparently, one cannot completely unsubscribe from The Press-Enterprize, the local newspaper. We canceled our subscription to the paper a couple years ago when a sudden, unjustified rate hike was sprung on subscribers. Our decision to cancel was also influenced by the fact that my wife and I read our news online. Despite our cancellation, we still get a weekly “supplement”. It arrives on our driveway unsolicited. Half of the time I throw it in the recycling bin. The other half of the time I toss it onto the table on the patio, then read it when I’m between books, movies, and blog posts. It could be more useful than it is to me, but I never wrap fish or line the bottom of bird cages, and it has been many decades since I had an urge to create anything out of papier-mache.

However, it is an occasional source of amusement, so I don’t throw the “free” paper in the recycling bin all of the time. For an example of occasional amusement, see Time Travel Compensation.

The latest issue of the “free” weekly paper displayed this article on the front page. It was hard to miss, because of the strong photograph. The article exhibited a clear disconnect between the photograph and the story.

The story was about the local (Inland Empire) education systems patting themselves on the back for a recent decline in teenage pregnancies in the area, due to their efforts aimed at contraception education, etc. That the decline in teenage pregnancy is directly related to recent local education efforts seems quite plausible, though it is only an assumption. Educators like to congratulate themselves. They have to.

The photograph is about the immeasurable joys of parenthood. It is so much stronger than the story it was (apparently intended) to illustrate. It conflicts with the story and effectively cancels it out, if not overrides it. In the end, the message is about the joys of parenthood.

What was the staff at the newspaper thinking? Were they thinking?