Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Group Three: Graphic Elements in the Coverage of the Same-Sex Marriage Topic

The same-sex marriage debate contains a substantial amount of imagery in the coverage from all sides of the argument. The debate is not about the images; the images assist in visually supporting and strengthening the argument. Art Silverblatt, author of Media Literacy: Keys to Interpreting Media Messages, stresses the importance of the sense of sight and photography in our everyday lives, specifically when submerging ourselves in the media.
“…we tend to respond to visually oriented media in an affective, or emotional way. Consequently, photographers can convey media messages by evoking particular responses in the audience.”
Radio is at a disadvantage simply because it lacks the visual element. The listener must rely on their sense of hearing and use their imagination in order to visualize what is being said. Radio hosts such as Rush Limbaugh employ tactics such as pausing for emphasis to stress importance (Silverblatt p 45). Although powerful, the effect is not as emotionally stimulating as a photograph would be.

Print is at a slight advantage over radio because of its ability to incorporate imagery as well as changing the font for emphasis. In the same-sex marriage debate, any given newspaper will use bold font in the headline to grab the readers’ attention. In a recent New York Times article, the headline “Same-Sex Marriage, Civil Unions, and Domestic Partnership,” is accompanied by a photograph of a male couple wearing tuxes, holding hands and a heart-shaped sign that reads: John and Stewart, 17 years. While the photograph may stir up mixed emotions based on the reader’s stance on same-sex marriage, the image contains a powerful message regardless.

Television combines the senses of sight and sound, making it a more powerful media source than radio or print. Silverblatt draws attention to the personal dynamic between a talk-show host and the audience. In the Ellen DeGeneres clip posted on this blog, she shares her response to then-Vice Presidential candidate Sarah Palin’s favor of a federal ban on gay marriage. The audience, in-studio and at home, can see that DeGeneres is truly affected by Palin’s decision based on her body language. The audience can also hear the emotion in DeGeneres’ voice as she says, “People are gonna be who they’re gonna be, and we need to learn to love them for who they are and let them love who they want to love.” The combination of sight and sound in this instance makes a bigger statement than either the image or words alone.

Digital Media incorporates all of the above media into one medium, clearly making it the most powerful and effective type of media. Silverblatt states that, “The digital domain offers the most depth of information on a particular topic. Web pages generally include links to additional sources and related articles. Entire libraries filled with information are literally at our fingertips,” (Silverblatt p 48). For example, upon entering Perez Hilton’s website, the viewer has the ability to click on various links throughout any given topic to retrieve further information. This becomes especially useful when a viewer is visiting a website of an unfamiliar topic, perhaps on gay marriage. The viewer will undoubtedly stumble across terms whose understanding is imperative in full comprehension of the topic. With the ability to click on these highlighted links, the viewer is now taken to another site that describes the term. These types of websites also incorporate images and video to further enhance the topic.

Photo Credit: Associated Press


Silverblatt, A. (2008). Media literacy: Keys to Interpreting Media Messages. Westport, CT: Praeger Publishers.

“Same-Sex Marriage, Civil Unions, and Domestic Partnerships.” New York Times 3 August 2009.

(2008, October 22). Ellen DeGeneres Slams Sarah Palin on Gay Marriage. The Huffington Post. Retrieved October 13, 2009, from http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2008/10/22/ellen-degeneres-slams_sar_n_136928.html

Perez Hilton lays into Miss USA beauty contestant over gay marriage answer | Celebrity |
News.com.au. (n.d.). Retrieved October 13, 2009, from http://www.news.com.au/entertainment/story/0,28383,25359158-5013560,00.html

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