Political Photography, Journalism, and Framing in the Digital Age: The Management of Visual Media by the Prime Minister of Canada

Lay Summary 

In the digital age, journalists are becoming more susceptible to the packaged visuals of politicians that image handlers are pushing electronically in an attempt to circumvent and influence the mainstream media. These managed photos and videos communicate officialdom, voyeurism, and pseudo-events, ranging from routine government business to a personal side of political leaders. They are designed to frame the subject in a positive light and to promote a strategic image. This article submits that demand for digital handouts of visuals, or “image bytes,” is stimulated by economics and institutional accommodation, including the constant need for Web content and journalists’ eroding access to government officials.

A profile of the image management of Prime Minister of Canada Stephen Harper illustrates the jockeying between politicians, PR staff, and journalists over news selection, pseudo-events, framing and gatekeeping. Insights from 32 interviews with Canadian journalists and Conservative party insiders suggests that a two-tier media system is emerging between the small news operations that welcome digital handouts and the mainstream journalists who are opposed. Theoretical themes for international research include examining the implications of political image bytes such as the possible priming effect on journalists who are exposed to constant visual e-communication pushed by political offices.

Published in: The International Journal of Press/Politics April 2012, v. 17, no. 2: 214-233

Political Science
St. John's
Newfoundland and Labrador
Political Parties
Public Relations
Industry Sectors 
Information and Cultural Industries
Scientific Research and Development Services
Advertising, Public Relations, and Related Services
Religious, Grant-Making, Civic, and Professional and Similar Organizations
Start date 
1 Jan 2012