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Journalists could change the way we think about vaccines in one powerful way

By Quartz

Painting a different pictureRead full story

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  • I have been covering the news about a yearly 21-million-child-strong vaccination gap and the measles outbreak affecting multiple countries globally for a few weeks now. I slowly started noticing that articles about this crisis usually had one thing in common: a lead image of a crying baby or a scary

    I have been covering the news about a yearly 21-million-child-strong vaccination gap and the measles outbreak affecting multiple countries globally for a few weeks now. I slowly started noticing that articles about this crisis usually had one thing in common: a lead image of a crying baby or a scary closeup of a giant needle.

    I spoke with Tara Haelle, a multimedia science journalist, about the impact that journalists' photo choices have on people's perception of vaccines. She told me: "The whole concept of getting vaccinated is counter-intuitive. You take a very young child and they are perfectly healthy, and you take a syringe full of chemicals that you don't understand, and you ... inject these chemicals into the body so that the child does not get sick. On its face, that is illogical." So, convincing parents to vaccinate means "allow[ing] our rational mind to take over our emotional brain." But if all parents ever see online are terrifying photos of babies crying out in pain, that might not be so easy: "It becomes a fight between the emotional brain and the rational brain, and if it's emotion versus rationality, emotions win every time," Haelle told me.

    That's why I argue in this editorial that journalists' photo choices give vaccines less credit than they deserve: https://qz.com/1605738/

    Do you think journalists should think differently about how to illustrate articles on vaccines?

  • Interesting and in line with the evidence that lead images play a not-insignificant part in drawing people to content (especially on social media and other platforms like news apps etc).

  • Having watched toddlers take on 6-foot grown male nurses fighting needles for more than an hour at a time, totally agree that any additional portrayal of needles and media does not help the cause towards vaccinations.

  • I’m going to make sure our editors see this: no crying kids after shots

  • We need to learn to communicate science better. Issues like vaccines and climate change require public action.

  • The media knows what it is doing. The vax / anti-vax debate sells papers and advertising. They consciously choose to escalate to sell. It is not necessarily the journalist that selects the image but the editor, who is, increasingly, just the head shill.

    I do not agree with Trump that the media is the

    The media knows what it is doing. The vax / anti-vax debate sells papers and advertising. They consciously choose to escalate to sell. It is not necessarily the journalist that selects the image but the editor, who is, increasingly, just the head shill.

    I do not agree with Trump that the media is the enemy of the people, however maybe it is time to admit that many publications would sell their own grandmother for another few advertising dollars

  • This reminds me of the polio vaccination campaign in India which had a senior Indian actor, well respected, and a warm story with a beautiful catch phrase to represent the oral vaccination for polio - 'one drop of life'. The effort was so amazing that India eventually eradicated polio from the country

    This reminds me of the polio vaccination campaign in India which had a senior Indian actor, well respected, and a warm story with a beautiful catch phrase to represent the oral vaccination for polio - 'one drop of life'. The effort was so amazing that India eventually eradicated polio from the country and considering a population of close to 1.4 billion, it is not a small feat.

    Having said that, there has been a huge network of activities that helped make it happen but I would say that the polio awareness campaign was the face of this success.

    In a similar way, I agree that a bit of creativity can actually convert the ones who are on the edge of being convinced. Why to leave this stone unturned? 🤔

  • Doctors can't convince them , educators can't teach them, I don't think journalists can make them feel good. Anyone who is willing to risk lives of their children rather than change their minds. I am waiting for the movie with Louis Pasteur as a demonic android sent back from the future to kill off all

    Doctors can't convince them , educators can't teach them, I don't think journalists can make them feel good. Anyone who is willing to risk lives of their children rather than change their minds. I am waiting for the movie with Louis Pasteur as a demonic android sent back from the future to kill off all those poor innocent microbes that benefit humans. It could be called Anthrax terminated.

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