Category Photojournalism

Ektachrome Re-exposed

Kodak is putting an old film back into production – Ektachrome, last made in 2012, will be back on the market this year.

As you read through Stan Horaczek’s story, study the image labeled Master Control. There are two items that will tell you this is a modern image, even though it looks straight out of the 1980s. While there may be some money to be made in Extachrome, it’s apparently not enough to redesign all the manufacturing and monitoring equipment.

Know Your Sources, Deeply

Andrew W. Lehren, Emily R. Siegel and Merritt Enright at NBC News broke a story this week about the First Lady receiving royalty payments that may have come from news outlets … without them knowing it.

Many of the photographs in the Getty Images archive are from a photographer who seems to have an interesting relationship with the Trump family. Regine Mahaux’s images appear to have required model royalties associated with them, meaning that news organizations (of which NBC News found several) were paying the First Lady when they published images of her. They are also reporting that the images have restrictions to be only used for positive news stories.

News organizations have a responsibility to understand where all of the information they publish comes from, which means they may have to investigate all of the agencies from which they draw images.

Of course, having staff photojournalists and your own archive can mitigate this problem – and I do mean mitigate, not eliminate. No organization will ever be able to create and control every image they need to publish.

(Thanks to Al Tompkins at the Poynter Institute for the lead on this.)

“I wanted to stop her crying”

It’s an image everyone is talking about, a little girl crying as her mother is searched by U.S. Border Patrol agents. It’s an image that took John Moore a decade to make.

“I have no way of knowing if things will be okay.”

Journalism matters.

Visualizing Autism

I am going to put this right up front – I think Craig Walker may be one of the most important photojournalists of our time.

He won earned two Pulitzer Prizes while at the Denver Post, one for a story on a kid joining the Army and a second on a Marine coming back from war. This week, the Boston Globe published Raising Connor, the story of a 13 year old boy with autism.

Walker invested the time, invested the energy, invested the compassion that this story needed. It is a shining example of what Roger May refers to as heartwork.

Not noted in the story, but due acknowledgment, are the editors who gave Walker the ability to make this story happen. It is stories like this that give us a true insight into what is happening in our communities, that let us both see and feel.

Last night, I sent another group of visual journalists out into the world at the University of Georgia commencement ceremony. We talk about stories that illuminate, educate and resonate – this story is what I mean by that.

Native Photographers

Who best can tell a story – an impartial outsider or someone with a deep connection? It’s a perennial question amongst journalists.

The outsider may have no bias but also may lack a depth of understanding. The insider may understand all the issues at hand but could also have been deeply affected by them.

Over at The New York Times, James Estrin looks at the mission of Natives Photograph, a database of Native American photographers.

“We’re people, we’re not news robots.”

We often wonder if the work we do makes a difference. Sometimes, we get a little evidence of it.

Noelle Lashley was Grady College’s Class Orator at our Convocation and called out Bob Lynn’s book, Vision, Courage and Heart.

We can be afraid. We’re people, we’re not news robots. We just can’t let that fear affect our work.

Seeing the South

I have a couple of friends, photojournalists with common but wide backgrounds, and we keep talking about doing some kind of project together. A road trip, an essay, a deep exploration of a place.

But we just keep talking about it, mostly because that’s all we have time for. And seeing pieces like this Andrew Moore gallery on the Bitter Southerner just makes me want to go even more.

Now that’s great storytelling.

Printing Out of Time

My darkroom days are, thankfully, in the past. I was never enamored with the process of photography, it was the message and meaning of an image I fell in love with. The ability to bring someone somewhere, to let them bear witness.

That said, I do appreciate the work of masters in the craft and the Cibachrome prints of Christopher Burkett are enchanting. That his days in the darkroom are numbered is, truly, saddening.

The Good Fight, Business Practices and What’s Next

Rick Smolan is known for his book series A Day in the Life of …, a project that started decades ago. He was recently interviewed by Scott Galloway of L2 to talk about those books, his newest project The Good Fight: America’s Ongoing Struggle for Justice and the business of photography.

Smolan pulls no punches here – the business model is not working anymore. But as I sat through this, thinking about how we old timers lament the days of re-licensing work and sustainable day rates, I started to wonder how we should teach the business of photography going forward and whether we need a zero-base approach to it.

Day rates aren’t what they were, clients want more rights than before, their needs are different due to emerging platforms and so many of us still talk about holding on to the business model of the 20th century … maybe, just maybe, we need to think about a different way of doing sustainable visual storytelling.

I have no idea what that way is, but it seems like something we should talk about at least.

(Thanks to Michael Schwarz for the link to the Michael Zhang piece on PetaPixel.)

The Hypocrisy of a Corporate Mandate Urging Independence

By now, you’ve seen the video montage that Deadspin created, with anchors from dozens of Sinclair Broadcasting Group stations reading the same corporate-issued script. You’ve seen the response from media associations like the National Press Photographers Association (and seen the consequences of that statement), you’ve read the analysis from folks like Al Tompkins at the Poynter Institute.

The Seattle Post-Intelligencer has a copy of the script edited to include local references to station KOMO. Some comments:

“Hi, I’m(A) ____________, and I’m (B) _________________…
(B) Our greatest responsibility is to serve our Northwest communities. We are extremely proud of the quality, balanced journalism that KOMO News produces.

By using news time for what is a promo or “public service announcement,” you’re cutting into your service to the community.

(A) But we’re concerned about the troubling trend of irresponsible, one sided news stories plaguing our country. The sharing of biased and false news has become all too common on social media.

Quality journalism dictates that you identify the source of your information. Neither the source of this script nor evidence of the “troubling trend” are provided.

(B) More alarming, some media outlets publish these same fake stories… stories that just aren’t true, without checking facts first.

Did KOMO review the information this report is based on? Allegedly, Sinclair did a survey – did anyone at KOMO look at the results? Did they look at the methodology? Did they talk to a survey expert about the sample size and composition? Did they ask about any implicit bias in the question structures?

(A) Unfortunately, some members of the media use their platforms to push their own personal bias and agenda to control ‘exactly what people think’…This is extremely dangerous to a democracy.

When one media organization requires all of their stations to run compulsory commentary, with out identifying its corporate source, isn’t that using, “their platforms to push their own personal bias and agenda?”

(B) At KOMO it’s our responsibility to pursue and report the truth. We understand Truth is neither politically ‘left nor right.’ Our commitment to factual reporting is the foundation of our credibility, now more than ever.

“Factual reporting is the foundation of our credibility” – that’s a powerful and true statement. But when you do not identify the words coming out of your mouth as being someone else’s, when you do not verify the data upon which those words are based and when you do not identify that these are coming from outside your newsroom, outside your news station and outside your community, you lose that credibility that you claim to need.

(A) But we are human and sometimes our reporting might fall short. If you believe our coverage is unfair please reach out to us by going to KOMOnews.com and clicking on CONTENT CONCERNS. We value your comments. We will respond back to you.
(B) We work very hard to seek the truth and strive to be fair, balanced and factual… We consider it our honor, our privilege to responsibly deliver the news every day.
Thank you for watching and we appreciate your feedback”

This is the soft close, this is the, “we’re listening to you but not telling you all we know” finish to make the audience feel good.

Broadcast stations are considered public trustees – because they use airwaves that are owned by all of us, there are certain standards they need to meet, certain obligations they need to fill. As more and more are owned by large corporations (Sinclair currently owns 193 television stations and is in discussions to purchase 40 more), there is a conflict between the public trustee role and the demands of corporate cultures.

Sinclair didn’t cross any legal lines here, but an ethical one has been bridged. Local news organizations should be reflective of and responsible to their local communities. The benefits of corporate ownership should be in taking advantage of scale for business purposes, not in taking advantage of scale to push a political agenda that may not be reflective of the communities.

Having local anchors read a corporate-provided script decrying that, “some members of the media use their platforms to push their own personal bias and agenda” is the very epitome of hypocrisy and erodes any credibility those news organizations may have.

So what do we do? As an educator, I advise my students to research the entities that are offering internships and jobs beyond just the basic info of location, market share or pay scales. They need to do a deep dive into the newsroom, the local organization and the corporate philosophy.

More so on the broadcast side than on the print side, journalists may have to sign contracts that stipulate everything from how much they’ll be paid to how they can – or cannot – move-on or quit.

I ask my students to look deeply inside themselves, to see if this corporation is a company they would be proud to represent because it will be their name, their likeness, that will be the public face of that company.

A good working environment and culture will go a very long way to make you both happy and successful. Salary alone doesn’t dictate job satisfaction.

I surround myself with journalists, journalism students and journalism educators by choice because we share a common ethical framework and a deep desire to help our local communities, to ask questions in our local communities and to seek answers in our local communities. I appreciate that working for the University of Georgia gives me access to certain benefits because of the scale of this operation but I also appreciate that I am given the ability to work with and react to my immediate constituents – the students and, by extension, the citizens of the state.

Corporate ownership of news organizations is not inherently evil, corporate dictates that do not reflect local priorities is, though. As a public trustee it is incumbent upon corporate owners to allow local operations to reflect the values and needs of those local consumers.

If they don’t, they are participating in yet another form of propaganda designed to control what people think.