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Ask MPR Mailbag

October 20, 2006

Can't you display like photos of politicians?

The pictures of the 3 Sixth District candidates accompanying the on-line story are certainly not equal. Both Bachmann and Binkowski are shown looking up. Wetterling is shown looking down. If these photos were taken during the Oct. 20 debate, did Patty not look up at all? If they are file photos, couldn't all have been selected with about equal objectivity?

St. Michael, MN

Dear Susan, do differences in how a candidate is presented in photographs -- even subtle differences -- influence voters? Do they reveal hidden biases in the people choosing the photos?

It's an interesting question, and one in which many people take a keen interest as we get closer to election day.

I thought this would be a good question for MPR political reporter and rock-star blogger, Bob Collins. Luckily for me, Bob had not yet put on his spacesuit and blasted out of the parking lot for the day.

Bob assured me that the choice of photographs isn't designed to make one candidate look better or worse than the others. In most cases, photos are taken by the reporter covering the event. Bob had a simple suggestion: if you've got a better photograph of your candidate, send it in. We'll consider running it.

Michael Popham
Minnesota Public Radio Member Listener Services