Brandon Stanton: “How Our Worldview is Negatively Affected by Good Stories”

Here’s a TEDx talk photographer Brandon Stanton gave at Columbia University last October about “how our worldview is negatively affected by good stories.” Stanton is the photographer behind the website Humans of New York.


Stanton graduated from the University of Georgia with a history degree before spending three years in Chicago as a bonds trader.

After losing his job and moving to New York City, Stanton started his Humans of New York photography blog in 2010. It quickly became an Internet phenomenon, and is now followed by over half a million people (in fact, it’s the fastest growing Arts and Humanities page on Facebook).

Stanton says that early on, he noticed something interesting about how photography and news work. When attending events, instead of seeing photojournalists distributed evenly among the crowds…


…he saw that coverage almost always focused around single individuals or groups of people that stood out:


While these photographs make for “good stories,” they aren’t always representative of the facts.

It’s important to realize that the news we hear is largely a reflection of what we find interesting, as opposed to a representative reflection of the world in general. When we pick up the newspaper in the morning or turn on the television in the evening, we’re not necessarily seeing a reflection of the real world — we’re seeing a reflection of our interests.

Being inundated with “images of extremes” is “changing our perception of the real world around us,” Stanton says.

  • Binder

    Do you mean Columbia College? Not University?

  • bob

    good points! nice to see the man behind the camera!

  • Jeremy Madore

    I think it’s important to fully understand the title here – “Good Story” is not precisely a story of “Good” but a story that “Sells” papers and other media. When I first read the title, I thought the speaker was going to lay into people for showcasing the positive.

    In the end, he’s just reiterating common knowledge, with some humor mixed in.

  • CC

    Columbia College is the “main” undergraduate division of Columbia University – there is GS, SEAS, Barnard, and the College!

  • Paraj Shukla

    “reiterating common knowledge” which is so uncommon, unfortunately. What I understood is that the speaker is exhorting us not to be overly influenced by the media stories, because the world around us is not as sex, violence and conflict-obsessed as portrayed by the media for our consumption. And at the same time, speaker is cautious enough not to blame media for this because the media simply caters to our interests, interests of ‘extremes’, or let us say ‘good stories’.

  • Scott Verge

    He may be just repeating information some people are already aware of but plenty of people haven’t heard his message yet and he presents it in a powerful way.

    Very cool stuff.