Bad news art at CNN.com

Written by Adrian Holovaty on December 5, 2003

I got a huge kick out of the Best of CNN photo gallery (via Metafilter), which presents more than 200 examples of news art used on CNN.com.

Boy, those things are bad. They're strange medleys of clip art, stock images, bona fide news photos and poorly done Photoshop effects, and it's troubling that CNN relies on them so heavily.

I suspect most of these images were produced on tight deadlines in order to add visual interest to the site's pages. But when images are so badly done they're embarassing, it's time to reconsider whether they're necessary. TV news' there-must-be-an-image-on-the-screen-at-all-times mentality doesn't translate to the Web.

Comments

Posted by pF on December 5, 2003, at 7:29 a.m.:

I'd have to agree. Some/Most of them are disgusting.

Posted by Julie on December 5, 2003, at 8:27 a.m.:

Hmmm... maybe. But I have to admit, if I'd gone to CNN.com when they were up, I would've clicked through to the 'Playboy Bunny next to coffee cup' and 'British cat' stories without hesitation just to see what the hell they were, whereas standalone headlines I'm imagining might have accompanied them wouldn't have pulled me. And I'm pretty sure I did look at the square watermelons when they debuted. ;)

Posted by Abdullah on December 5, 2003, at 11:10 a.m.:

Hey. You really right! Those pictures are really bad. I regarded them for a while and they´re badly made. I think CNN is firm withmuch reputation, why they produce so much trash. There only a few pictures which are made good!

OK tanx. anime-media.org

Posted by Jason on December 5, 2003, at 12:45 p.m.:

Okay, most of these are bad and many are horrible.

That said, it is hard to be objective when critiquing these images out of context. I'm willing to give a small but non-zero benefit of the doubt that there might be a perfectly good reason to have a picture of a rooster with "poorly done Photoshop effects" next to a news story.

Posted by Chris Heisel on December 5, 2003, at 4:05 p.m.:

Two words: documentary photography!

We're in the journalism business, and I presume CNN is too. (Though recently...)

I've always wondered why they feel the need to produce these horrible graphics. (I can not find it now but The Onion had a wonderful parody of their graphics).

They're a 24/7 cable TV news network -- can't they take frame grabs from the relevant footage and use that instead.

Adrian, you're right, graphics for graphics sake don't fly on the Web. They often make them look amateurish, to be honest.

Posted by Ruben on December 5, 2003, at 5:28 p.m.:

Embarrassing is the right word. If it wouldn't say that they came from the CNN web site, I wonder if I would have guessed it. And if I had believed the answer. On the other hand, I think the standard Microsoft Office icons look amateuristic as well. One would think they could afford some decent designers as well.

Posted by kpaul on December 5, 2003, at 9:04 p.m.:

my currect favorite photo hangout is Yahoo Photo Slideshows - can see a few days worth of photos in a relatively short amount of time. i wish there were more of them, though! ;)

Posted by homerjay on December 14, 2003, at 12:43 a.m.:

Can you imagine how quickly CNN needs graphics done? They can't really put too much thought into them, but they need to be attention grabbing. It's gotta be tough on the designers (interns).

Posted by hotgfx on December 22, 2003, at 12:13 p.m.:

Man I think your right Adrian. They need more drop shadows, sparkle effects, and filters. This is the problem today with so many news artists. They don't know how to use the software. Each release of Photoshop they come out with more and more text warps, and filters, to improve the quality and interest of everyday graphics and for some reason these idiots aren't buying. I think all websites should look more like this one. . . Lots and lots of text! Images tend to break up the content too much and just distract from the real story. Whoever said a picture is worth a thousand words was clearly not a journalist. I can describe 400 pictures in a thousand words! I am considering having an entire wall done in my cookie cutter home with just text. I think black text on a white wall that just reads “word”. The word “word” repeated over and over again. Maybe you should consider doing what I did after I saw these graphics. I got a hot poker and put my eyes out. I know it's medieval but Christ, who can look at such things and ever want to see again? So glad there are people out of work who can take the time to maintain sites like this one. Merry Christmas! You truly are a great critic!

Posted by Adrian on December 22, 2003, at 1:26 p.m.:

An FYI to readers: The highly amusing comment "hotgfx" posted above came from atl190.turner.com, which appears to be the CNN network.

Posted by Stanton on December 24, 2003, at 11:52 a.m.:

For what it's worth at this point, here's my favorite sin I've done along these same lines...

http://www.jsonline.com/graphics/news/art/sloticons/biohaz_prairiedog_125.gif

Posted by Arkad_81 on January 8, 2004, at 12:11 a.m.:

Bad or not, art is better than no when it comes to news stories. People in a hurry glance at a news story that's all words, they're more likely to hit that back button (ashamedly, I do). If they see color (that doesn't come fram an ad) that in _any_ way illustrates the article, it'll at least provide a spark of imagination to the reader that may be enough to keep their interest.

I've noticed the bad art at CNN plenty of times, and wondered who came up with that, and placed it on this story. But more than once, I've caught myself in that "train wreck" gaze looking at it.

Let's face it -- the web is a visual place, that relies on visual cues that need faster recognition than mere words.

Posted by Donna on January 25, 2006, at 8:53 p.m.:

The picture of the kitty with one eye and one nose was obnoxious. For all animal lovers I am sure it was very disturbing. We all know there are oddities but to show them like this is wrong.

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