Visual Gatekeeping – Selection of News Photographs at a Flemish Newspaper

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As ethnographic studies of the visual gatekeeping process at newsrooms are scarce and the increasingly digitised news era demands for reconsideration, this article focuses on the results of a qualitative study at the photo news desk of a Flemish newspaper in Belgium. Our aim has been to provide an update and a broadening of previous studies on visual gatekeeping processes, and the findings are based on observations, in-depth interviews and reconstructions of the visual selection process. Our results show that routine and organisational influences as the ‘newsroom culture’ and the ‘rhythm’ of the newspaper outweigh individual preferences of photo editors. In-house photographers are systematically preferred to wire photographs. The information value of photos prevails, but aesthetics and good taste add another layer of deliberation. In addition, layout policies explicitly steer photo editors in their decision-making process.

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