No Pictures Please!

The Vancouver Sun prints photographs alongside many of the letters to the editor, and it suddenly occurred to me what a terribly bad idea this is. Pictures may flatter the writer, but they distract from the text. One of the great advantages of written words is that they filter out other grounds for prejudice: when all you have is words, an argument must stand on its own merits. Photos do just the opposite. We may trust beautiful people more, those who appearance matches or contrasts with their arguments, or those who look like us. If what we want from the letters page is a warm fuzzy feeling of community, then photos are a cute innovation. But if the letters page is about opinions and serious debate, then there is no place for pictures.