I think we're being too hard on these guys.
First, the comment "Digital images are inherently less interesting just because everyone does it" was followed by "When someone sees something like this, it'll hold their attention longer because it catches them off-guard,". Frankly, a platinum image captures my eye - and garners a longer look - because it's different. Doesn't make it better.
Second, this is an online article. The reporter - who probably doesn't really understand the medium - wrote this. Then an editor cut it back to meet space requirements. Then an online editor further cut it back. Who knows what (comments or context) was left out.
I give them (the students and the school) credit for taking the effort.