Some Days, It Pays to be a Pack Rat

Not many, but some. While rooting around for something else I found a yellowed sheet of paper I must have been handed in grad school by my mentor, Prof. David Sutherland. And so I share it with you …

Questions to keep in mind:

  1. Does the photo communicate quicker, stronger, better or more eloquently than a simple sentence could describe?
  2. Does the photo have visual content or stop short at story elevation?
  3. Does the photo go beyond the trite and the obvious?
  4. Does the photo contain essential information to help the reader understand the story?
  5. Does the photo have enough impact to move the reader?
  6. Is the photo clean, interesting and well-composed enough to stand on its own?
  7. Does the caption information answer who, what, when, where and why, along with other required information (e.g. age and hometown)?
  8. Are both the photo and the caption information objective and accurate accounts of what happened?
  9. Is the photo mindless documentation?
  10. Does the photo communicate effectively? Photos should either move, excite, entertain, inform or help the reader understand a story.

(Adapted from The Columbus Dispatch)

There’s some very good stuff in there, things we don’t think about as much as we should some days. And this isn’t just for shooters – editors and managers should pay attention to the “mindless documentation” that’s being heralded as “citizen journalism.” Information is good, context is better.

Mark E. Johnson

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