Author Mark E. Johnson

Journalists and Stress

Beginning of a new series by Gabriel Arana at the Huffington Post on journalists and stress, hopeful that this will go a little deeper into how we deal with it. But, even if it just raises awareness of the issues, it’s beneficial – too often we brush off what we’ve seen and documented and move on. It doesn’t work.

What has always concerned me is not just those who witness massive events like the September 11 attacks of the Boston Marathon bombings, but those who see the little slices at humanity, day in and day out. The cumulative effect of bearing witness to the human condition is just as great (and maybe greater) than being present at the big events – and there’s little empathy for those who do that work. Everyone talks about where they were when the towers fell, there’s a shared experience there – but no one talks about where they were when there was one horrific car crash. Or where they were when one child was removed from one abusive home – but there may have been a journalist there that day. And who do they talk to?

The point isn’t that journalists exposed to mass devastation are invincible, but that those suffering most are often tucked away where others don’t think to look.

Judge Orders Atlanta Police Department to Implement Media Training

U.S. District Court Judge Steve Jones, citing a series of events from 2009 to 2014, has ordered a litany of changes the Atlanta Police Department must implement or face severe fines that could total $20,000 a day.

The order includes mandatory bi-annual training for all officers and permanent changes to the department’s Standard Operating Procedures.

Brian Storm on Ethics

In an interview with Onward about multimedia storytelling, Brian Storm slips this in at the end:

I don’t think we should reconsider the ethics of photojournalism. Just because technology has changed it doesn’t mean that we should treat the documentation of stories in a less ethical manner.

I agree.

The Hawkins Axiom

I’d never heard of the Hawkins Axiom until just a few moments ago, but now I’ll teach it to my kids. So far this morning we’ve had four discussions about pricing photography. It’s that time of the year, for sure …

Mark Edelson Has Passed

Sad news this morning – we’ve lost Mark Edelson, a legendary picture editor, to cancer.

I never worked for Mr. Edelson, but I did have a handful of opportunities to talk with him over the years. Always short conversations, but powerful. He was the first person I ever talked to about what it means to be a Picture Editor – what it means to lead, coach, guide and manage photojournalists. We talked about how little training there was to be a picture editor in this world, how so many of us were promoted into management without much of an idea on what it means to manage. We could select photos all day long, but the backside of being an editor was something we all floundered with.

My hope is, later this year, we will make some inroads into solving that problem with a new event here in Athens. Stay tuned, we need to build us some more Mark Edelsons.

On Working for Free

Over at The Online Photographer, Michael Johnston takes on the idea of working for free … and how many people will complain about what you provide. For free.

There’s that problem: you can’t assume goodwill in response to an accommodation. Doing work for free is just as likely to disqualify you for future jobs as it is likely to qualify you for them. And, ironically, charging too little is often just an encouragement for people to think that you charge too much.

Life After Death: Preserving Your Archive

Over at PDNOnline, Sarah Coleman has a good piece up on how to prepare your archive for, well, when you’re not here anymore.

Not many photographers put a lot of thought into this, but they should. Copyright extends 70 years after our passing and is controlled by our heirs, who may or may not have any idea of what to do with the physical material or the intellectual property it represents.

The father of one of my colleagues spent many years as an architectural photographer in the Atlanta area, documenting much of the city’s mid-20th century build out. He has spent the last few years organizing those negatives, making copious notes about when and where the images were made, and has now made a deal with the University of Georgia’s Special Collection library to preserve those negatives, making them available for research.

Who is the audience for your archive? Is there a high level of monetary or historical value in it? You may have one and not the other, but thinking about these things now – and getting everything organized – will make your passing much easier on those left behind.

The Consequence of Deception (Updated)

Putting on my ranting cap …

As a journalist, journalism educator, parent and generally presentable guy, I abhor lying. If you lie to me once, I will always suspect you are lying to me. It doesn’t matter how big or how little that original deception was, in the back of my mind there will always be a little bell ringing whenever you tell me something. I know you won’t always be lying, and it’s entirely possible you will never do it again, but once it happens, that suspicion will always be there.


Up at the Albany (N.Y.) Times-Union, Thomas Palmer has been acting as the Picture Prosecutor, taking news organizations to task for stupid photo choices. (My personal favorite, that I co-opted and expanded for my class, was on the the classroom from hell.)

But this morning, as I ate my Frosted Mini Wheats, sipped my orange juice and tapped my way through my local news organization’s site, my rage bubbled up.

4 twisters confirmed in Georgia after weekend storms read the headline on the Associated Press story. And the photo alongside it was dramatic.

Look at that: An AP wire photo that shows TWO of the FOUR tornados. And, since it was from this past weekend, they even labeled it as a file photo. But there was no caption on the photo, which seemed a little odd, didn’t it?

And that image looked … familiar. So I did a quick search, dropping AP Photo Eric Anderson tornado into a search box and quickly learned why it was familiar.

I’d seen the photo before. Not earlier this week, not last weekend when the tornados were touching down.

Last year.

June of 2014, to be precise, and the image was so powerful National Geographic had picked it up as well as the Denver Post.

The photo, as presented to readers of the Athens Banner-Herald this morning, was a lie. It implied two tornados had touched down within miles of each other at the same moment in time in Georgia last weekend.

The tornados pictured happened almost a year ago and more than 1,100 miles away.

That’s lying. That’s using a powerful image to draw attention to something it does not represent. It’s akin to taking a high school yearbook quote and inserting it into a story as if the politician spoke it the night before.

You would never do that, would you?


The Morris Communication Company’s Code of Ethics does not deal directly with newsroom ethics, acting as a more general business code. What is the consequence of deception? And what should it be?

The credibility of our industry is one of the few things we should be able to control. Market forces, reader attention spans and advertiser wanderings are things we’d like to control but, realistically, we can’t.

But we do control what we publish – and what we publish must be both accurate and truthful. If it isn’t, then what’s the point? The First Amendment protects freedom of speech, it doesn’t protect a freedom to lie.

UPDATE: As of 10:40 a.m., the Athens Banner-Herald has removed the photo. They did not post a correction or explanation, so add in a transparency issue to my above rant.

UPDATE: A correction has now been appended to the story that satisfactorily explains the problem with the original image and why it was removed.

Pulitzer Prize Awarded to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch Staff and Daniel Berehulak for the NY Times

Congratulations to the staff of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch for their Breaking News Pulitzer Prize and to Daniel Berehulak, working for The New York Times, for Feature Photography.

The Post-Dispatch’s work is on the Pulitzer site. There’s a gallery of Berehuglak’s work, as well.

Stellar work from both.

Getting Your Internship

The Associated Press Photo Managers will be hosting a Google hangout on Wednesday, April 22, at 1 p.m., to talk about getting an internship and making the most of it. Great group of people will be on it: Emily Bogle (NPR), Danny Gawlowski (Seattle Times), Andrea Morales (Freelance) and Adam Wolffbrandt (Western Kentucky).

Get it on your calendar now.