Author Mark E. Johnson

Remembering Dickey Chapelle

The first time I head her name was in a song. But it was enough for me to search out more information on Dickey Chapelle. Now, 50 years after she was killed, few know who she is as Jackie Spinner reports at the Columbia Journalism Review.

That should really change.

Reuters Goes to All JPGs

Michael Zhang at PetaPixel is reporting that Reuters has issued a directive to all its photojournalists to only submit images that were shot as JPGs in the camera – no more raw files allowed. (Side note: Why do we always capitalize RAW? It’s not an acronym so far as I can tell.)

Why would the wire service want to give up on the quality advantages of starting from a raw file? Well, speed is the obvious answer – JPGs write faster, download faster, open faster and don’t require any specialized conversion software. But their secondary reason is ethics.

They’ve reached a point where they no longer trust raw images. Which is horrifyingly sad, isn’t it? And insisting on SOOC JPGs (that’s straight out of camera, if you’re curious) or maybe minimally toned and cropped images to fight ethical issues isn’t going to help – you can lie just as easily before the image is made as after.

The core issue here is now trust – Reuters doesn’t appear to trust their contributors (freelancers are mentioned specifically*). And, once you’ve reached that point, no technology policy in the world will help you.

The loss of picture editors at agencies and publications has a crippling, cascading effect on the journalism we aspire to commit. Without them, there isn’t a visual voice at the table when stories are developed. Without them, there isn’t an advocate for the usage of good images (and the non-usage of idiotic images). Without them, the relationship between the organization and those who provide coverage is lost. It is way easier to lie to someone you don’t know then to lie to someone you do know.

This isn’t about speed or efficiency, this is the consequence of speed and efficiency.

*UPDATE: Hearing that staffers received the same directive.

The Legacy of King Cotton

Really nice package from Reuters photojournalist Brian Snyder on how little cotton is being grown in the south now. A very elegant presentation and a nice slice of life in the former land of King Cotton.

The Rest of the Missouri Video

Bob Sullivan, a University of Missouri alumnus, has his take on what happened last Monday when journalists were harassed on campus – and it’s worth looking at.

Most of us have probably already seen the first seven minutes of Mark Schierbecker’s video, but watch what happens from seven minutes on – including the sarcastic (my interpretation that aligns with Mr. Sullivan’s) tone of faculty member and state employee Melissa Click.

The “Media please stay off the grass” sign later on is a nice touch, too, as it’s held by one of hundreds of people standing on the grass …

Documenting the Fullness and Complexity of Life

Screen Shot 2015 11 11 at 2 00 49 PMGiven the news out of the University of Missouri this week – which is overwhelming in its complexity and very difficult to thread an education lesson through in a short time – the timing of Maurice Berger’s story about a new Gordon Parks exhibit in New York on The New York Times’ Lens blog is stunningly relevant.

The exhibit details not just the published work from Parks’ first assignment for Life magazine, but also the entire take, notes and conversations about the images – what to include and, more importantly, what to exclude. It sounds like it is a brutally honest look at the process of how a picture story would be crafted to match a pre-determined narrative.

Does that sound familiar this week?

This graf is hauntingly authentic right now:

By demonstrating the fullness and complexity of its subjects’ existence, the photo essay could have helped the magazine’s white readers to make connections to their own lives, an empathetic response that Mr. Parks believed was vital to challenging stereotypes and misconceptions about people they saw as fundamentally different from themselves.

I have been rolling ideas through my head for nearly two days now regarding the Missouri incidents. I am angry, frustrated, concerned, baffled, worried and deeply fearful that this event is a turning point (one we may not recognize for a very long time) that signals a seismic shakeup of the relevance of journalism. If a group that was fighting to not be thought of as other chooses to label journalists as the new other then maybe our relevance is over. Technology is somewhat to blame here, but it’s much more about an attitudinal shift, I think.

Much more on that in future posts, but for now, go study Parks’ work.

UGA Student Part of SPJ Georgia Award for Investigative Journalism

Congratulations to University of Georgia’s Henry W. Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication Visual Journalism student Taylor Carpenter for co-winning the 2015 Larry Peterson Memorial Award for Investigative Journalism as part of the Georgia News Lab initiative.

The full release:

(SAVANNAH, GEORGIA) – The Society of Professional Journalists – Georgia and the Savannah Morning News will celebrate its first winners of the 2015 Larry Peterson Memorial Award for Investigative Journalism on Saturday, Nov. 14, at the Larry Peterson Award Workshop and Luncheon at the Savannah Morning News auditorium in Savannah, Georgia.

Savannah Morning News investigative journalist and environmental reporter Mary Landers won the award for her three-part investigative series on the proposed Palmetto Pipeline published in the spring 2015. Landers has been with the newspaper for 18 years.

Five members of the 2015 Georgia News Lab won the student category for their investigative work published in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution entitled, “Expense allowances for commissioner come with no strings attached,” in the paper’s June 27, 2015 edition. The article exposed the lack of accountability and oversight over expense allowances granted to county commissioners in three Atlanta’s largest counties. The winners include:

Taylor Carpenter, a senior at the University of Georgia, is majoring in journalism with dual emphasis in visual journalism and magazine writing. Carpenter has interned for the Bryan County News, Richmond Hill, Georgia.

Stephen Fowler, a communications major from Emory University, has held various journalism positions including the current executive digital editor position for the Emory Wheel. Fowler is also the communications director for Health Connect South since April 2015.

Jane Hammond is a 2015 graduate of Mercer University’s Center for Collaborative Journalism, Macon, Georgia, and after graduation joined the Daily Press, Newport News, Virginia, as the education reporter. Hammond was an investigative intern for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
Ciara Frisbie, a senior broadcast journalism at Georgia State University, is news director for GSTV and continues as an investigative intern for WSB-TV Atlanta. Frisbie was also a student representative board member of the Society of Professional Journalist – Georgia in 2014.

Jared Loggins was the managing editor of the Maroon Tiger, Morehouse College’s student newspaper and was an intern with the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Loggins is now a graduate student studying political science at the University of California, Los Angeles.

This inaugural award is named after Savannah Morning News investigative journalist and political reporter Larry Peterson who died in 2014 from cancer. An endowment from the Peterson family subsidizes these annual awards for excellence in investigative journalism for one professional journalist and one student journalist.

Know as a “dogged seeker of truth,” Larry Peterson spent 15 years at the Savannah Morning News and used his investigative skills and knowledge of the local political system to clearly write and explain the nature of the topics he covered for his readers.

The Society of Professional Journalists – Georgia and the Savannah Morning News launched the Larry Peterson Memorial Award for Investigative Journalism in 2015 to recognize exceptional investigative journalism from professional and student journalists in Alabama, Florida, Georgia and South Carolina.

Founded in 1909 as Sigma Delta Chi, SPJ promotes the free flow of information vital to a well-informed citizenry; works to inspire and educate the next generation of journalists; and protects First Amendment guarantees of freedom of speech and press.

Missouri Update: Dean’s Statement

Dean David Kurpius from the University of Missouri’s School of Journalism has released a statement regarding Monday’s incident.

Also, for clarification, Assistant Professor Melissa Click, featured in several videos confronting journalists, is not a faculty member in the Missouri School of Journalism.

She is a member of the MU Department of Communication in the College of Arts and Science. In that capacity she holds a courtesy appointment with the School of Journalism. Journalism School faculty members are taking immediate action to review that appointment.

Missouri Update, NPPA Statement

The National Press Photographers Association has issued a statement on the situation at the University of Missouri.

At the end of the video linked to yesterday is a woman calling for some “muscle” to remove a reporter – she is Melissa Click, an assistant professor in the Department of Communications at the university. Click also holds a “courtesy” appointment with the School of Journalism.

Missouri Students and Faculty Block Journalists

Mark Schierbecker, a student at the University of Missouri, posted a disturbing video of another student photojournalist, Tim Tai, being blocked by students and faculty while trying to cover the events on campus earlier today.

Mr. Tai deserves high praise for his composure during this event – his is the mark of professionalism. I would hope that the journalism program at Missouri will immediately offer up some First Amendment programs to help the campus population understand that Mr. Tai – and all the other journalists there, including Mr. Schierbecker – have a Constitutionally protected right to be there and document what was happening. There is no expectation of privacy in public.

Challenging California’s Anti-Paparazzi Law

The first case challenging the Constitutionality of California’s 2010 anti-paparazzi law is headed to court and the National Press Photographers Association is joining in.

The law applies penalties to working photographers for driving infractions that differ from those applies to non-photographers.

The appeal points out that the statute creates different punishments for individuals breaking the same driving laws. For example, a person driving too closely behind another car could receive a $100 fine, but a photojournalist driving in the exact same manner could receive a fine of $2,500 and up to six months in jail.