Every morning at work, I use fifteen minutes and browse through the latest news. A few days ago, the following story headlined three of the largest Norwegian online newspapers (because it’s pretty obvious that nothing more important could have happened during the last hour).
Meet Elena P. A 23 year old woman born in Russia, she now lives in Barcelona, Spain. After a long night out she comes home to her apartment, realizes that she has misplaced her apartment keys and knocks on the neighbor’s door for help. Her neighbor, not too helpful, decides calls the cops on her, which arrive and bring her in.
At the police station four officers rip her clothes off and beat her up. Welcome to Spain. These four cops were probably not among the brightest flashing lights on the force; they did it in an interrogation room equipped with video surveillance equipment, everything was recorded and images from the video soon made their way to newspapers all over the world.
To crush down on police brutality1 is important, but poor Elena. Not only has she been undressed and humiliated in front of four female coppers from Barcelona, now the entire world knows what she looks like without her top on. The three Norwegian newspapers I browsed that morning had all done their best to protect both their readers and Elena.
The story was exactly the same in all three newspapers, copied directly from a news agency bulletin. The main difference was the pictures used. Dagbladet, the second largest newspapers, which does not really focus that much on news these days, was more worried about their readers than Elena’s identity and used this picture:
Since I’m a very fragile man, I think it’s a good thing that they decided to remove her breasts – insert girlish giggling here. VG, the largest newspaper, possible focusing even more on sports and celebrity gossip than Dagbladet, knows how well sex sells and used this picture on the front page:
It’s not possible to visually identify poor Elena. Unless she takes her top off, that is. “Hey, don’t I know these from somewhere?”. For some strange reason, they’ve decided to use this image in the actual article:
90% of the male readers who clicked on the front page image probably hoped to see more boobs. We all felt a little cheated. Aftenpost, considered the more serious of the three and the third largest, only showed a picture of her back. And you wonder why they’re only hold the number three spot? I’d like to thank all the newspapers, Elena and the Spanish cops, for making the first fifteen minutes of my busy workday an interesting study in media psychology.