Coronavirus may have spread from China, but given that it is now a worldwide problem, why are so many news outlets continuing to use photographs of Asian people to illustrate their reporting? Is this adding to the issues regarding xenophobia since the outbreak a few months ago?
This question is raised by Nylah Burton over on Vox who argues that the Covid-19 outbreak has led photo editors to a tendency to veer towards racist tropes when choosing images to accompany articles. As she explains, “the outbreak is not confined to — nor can be blamed on — Asian people.”
Various examples are cited, including one instance where a story about an outbreak in Manhattan was illustrated using a photograph of an Asian man wearing a face mask in Queens. Given that the outbreak has gone far beyond Asia and that xenophobia and racism have surfaced as a result of the virus’s origins, there’s a good argument that news outlets should take steps to avoid further stigmatization.
Twitter was quick to cite multiple examples:
Burton is not suggesting that editors and outlets are racist, but it raises the question: does the visual culture of news reporting contribute to xenophobia, and would a change in reporting help to create a sense of unity in fighting coronavirus rather than engendering a feeling of them and us? Leave your thoughts below.