Image sourcing practices

Image sourcing practices in the Australian news media

This page gives a brief overview of key results from the image sourcing survey. More detailed explanations of other aspects of this study, e.g. methodology and analytical tools, can be found in publications emanating from this research. As these become available, they will be listed here, and in my Publications tab.

As noted on my ARC DECRA project intro page, one of the aims of my project has been to investigate who is being given the task of bearing witness in the Australian news media.

This question has been addressed through a large-scale survey of image sourcing practices using quantitative content analysis. Media monitoring includes the following news websites: Fairfax Media’s, News Corp’s, the public broadcaster’s news site, and Guardian Australia’s

Figure 1: Data Collection Calendar

Data sampling followed the constructed week method over 14 weeks (between July and October 2017) to yield two constructed weeks. The days investigated are shown in Figure 1.

The image sourcing survey interrogates the ‘news’ sections of each of the news websites under investigation. The focus remains on stories that appear in the ‘News’ section of the website, i.e. they are labelled as generalist news, e.g. News, Political news, Breaking news, Local news, Regional news, National news, World news. The survey does not look at stories that are Opinion/Commentary/Leaders, or from specialist sections e.g. Executive Living, Arts, Travel, Review, Daily Review. Specialist sections often include sponsored content, or native advertising, which is described by Wojdynsky & Evans (2016: 157) as ‘any paid advertising that takes the specific form and appearance of editorial content from the publisher itself’. This makes it very difficult to tell the difference between content that has been influenced or signed off by advertisers and editorially independent content (Heilpern 2016). This study concerns itself with original news content produced by the news organisation itself.

Figure 2 shows the total number of images that were collected during the survey.

Figure 2

Of the total number of images collected (n=1835), 1773 images include some form of attribution, and only 62 images (3%) of the total are published without any form of attribution. However, a number of images, 9% are minimally attributed using only the term ‘Supplied’. Given the struggles for photo credits over many decades (Reich and Klein-Avraham 2014), this is a very encouraging signal among Australian news organisations in their consistent use of attribution.

Maximal attribution practices (using both the name of the photographer and the organisation they represent, e.g. Mike Bowers for Guardian Australia) can be found in 42% of all images captured. In 17% of all cases, just  the name of the photographer has been used, while 33% use only the name of an organisation (e.g. AAP).


So, who is charged with capturing the images that appear in the news pages of these news organisations?

Well, two key findings are worth looking at first in relation to the data collected as a whole. The first is that it is overwhelmingly still ‘journalistic’ sources that supply news images (Figure 3). By journalistic sources, I mean that people with news media training (esp. regarding journalistic codes of ethics), like staff photographers, journalists, editors, producers, news radio presenters, news agency photographers, have supplied these images. Only 4% of the images are attributed to a named citizen.

Figure 3
Figure 4







However, not all of the journalistic images that are published come directly from staff/tenured members of a news organisation (see Figure 4). In fact, only 5% of the images published in Guardian Australia were produced in-house. ABC News has the highest percentage of images produced by its own staff members, at 41%.


More to come



Heilpern, W. 2016, ‘Briefing: How ‘deceptive’ sponsored news articles could be tricking readers — even with a disclosure message’, Business Insider Australia, March 18, accessed 31 July 2017,

Reich, Z. & Klein-Avraham, I. 2014, ‘Textual DNA: The hindered authorship of photojournalists in the Western press’, Journalism Practice 8(5): 619-631.

Wojdynski, B.W. & Evans, N.J. 2016, ‘Going native: Effects of disclosure position and language on the recognition and evaluation of online native advertising’, Journal of Advertising 45(2): 157-168.


How to cite this page:

Caple, H. (2017), ‘Image sourcing practices in the Australian news media’, Helen Caple,