What does it mean to visually “witness” a newsworthy crisis?

I was wondering If you can help me out with just confirming that writing about the bp oil spill is the right

track. I just need some help on understanding this prompt. My professor uploaded this prompt this morning and I’m having a tough time fully understanding and figuring out what topic to proceed with. My first thoughts was the BP oil spill or 9/11 but thought 9/11 would be overused and the bp oil spill irrelevant to the prompt.


Essay #4 engages with Envision in Depth, Chapter 12, “Crisis and Resilience.” This chapter focuses the reader on essays about our understanding of local and global crises being mediated through pictures and text. In other words, the chapter asks us to analyze how we connect with and empathize with a crisis when we were not present or personally affected by the crisis. It also teaches us how to analyze a photographic composition, and the importance of fact-checking. Crisis also begs other questions such as what are the limits of our empathy and the prevalence of “compassion fatigue”? What images move us in an age of technology with a 24/7 news cycle? What are the ethical responsibilities of “citizen journalists”? These are the “big picture,” critically engaged questions circling Chapter 12, “Crisis and Resilience,” but for the purposes of practicality, the prompt will focus specifically on images of crisis AND resilience. 

You will be asked to deploy analytical skills with news photography and to make an argument about how photojournalism can enhance our response to crisis, and to also select reparative images that show resilience or bouncing back from a crisis situation. (Note: please do not put “shock” photos in the essay. You can use description skills instead by describing an image that is particularly gruesome.)

Prompt: What does it mean to visually “witness” a newsworthy crisis? How is this type of reporting different from sensationalism or “click-bait”? How can photographs and news journalism help communities reconcile with loss while beginning a recovery process?

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