I guess I hadn't realized how far still photos have fallen in status and prestige in the popular imagination.

For news reportage, video has many clear advantages over still pictures. But one of its big disadvatanges is that it's difficult to get video footage of unexpected news events as they occur. That fact, coupled with the national media habit of saturation coverage and its subsequent voracious appetite for footage, means that sometimes some pretty inadequate video is heavily overused.

This situation is especially bad with regard to the recent tragedy at Virginia Tech. The two most-repeated video clips seem to be a jiggly view of a parking lot with pops of gunfire heard on the audio portion, and a clip of an obese law enforcement officer in a brown uniform running up an incline. I've seen the latter at least thirty times, and it hasn't added anything useful to my understanding of the event past viewing #1.

Into this void came the killer's own videos, which have naturally been overexposed as well, to widespread objections.

Still, it startled me when a TV news commentator said something like, "Surprisingly, some of the most powerful images of the tragedy have been still pictures."

Who is surprised by that, exactly? Not me. But then, maybe the tendency to overvalue still photographs and undervalue videography is another of my personal idiosyncrasies. I don't know.

Whether by chance or design, the shooting spree occurred at the very beginning of the publication cycle of the weekly news magazines here in the United States. I anticipate that as the new issues of the newsweeklies hit the newsstands over the next few days, we're going to be reminded again how powerful still images can be.



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