My column defending posed pictures in hometown newspapers drew tremendous support from Black Inkling readers. Many of the responses offered candid opinions and practical advice for handling photos, and I thought I would pass them along. —Ken
Photos are for Our Real Bosses
Jerry Bellune, co-publisher
The Lexington (SC) Chronicle
I agree with you on posed photos.
In community journalism we need to separate our thinking on photos.
- 1. Photojournalism is dramatic, exciting and we shoot it for ourselves and contest judges.
- 2. Group shots are for our readers.
They send them to relatives, hang them on their refrigerators, paste them in scrapbooks and slip them into their family Bibles.
To insist that there’s no place in the community newspaper for such photos is the height of conceit. Insensitive and stupid, too.
Let’s not kid ourselves about who we’re working for. A photo may be worth 1,000 words but a photo with 20 people in it is worth 20,000.
The Award is Appreciation
From Dave Volz, editor
The Nashville (IL) News
I could not agree more with your thoughts on group pictures and so-called “grip and grin” check presentations. Here’s an example from when I owned a weekly newspaper: I was called to shoot some pix of kindergarten kids visiting a petting zoo. Also there was a photojournalist from a nearby daily. This guy took brilliant, compelling photos, and I always admired his work. On this day, he got a shot of the kids peering between the slats of a wooden fence at the animals. All you could see was their eyes. The daily ran it on page one, and I again marveled at his expertise with a camera. I thought it was a prizewinner.
I missed that shot, but ran two or three photos of kids petting and feeding the animals. Pretty standard stuff. I took the time to identify every child in the photos, and managed to get most of the class in one shot or the other.
We were friends with some of the parents of those kids, and I was pleasantly surprised when visiting one of their homes to find my photos prominently placed on the refrigerator. No awards for me, except the belief that my readers appreciated my efforts.
Posed Photos Sell Newspapers From Kim-Ross Polito, publisher
Crestline (OH) Advocate
We are a community weekly (2,300 circ in a town of 5,000 people). We publish all kinds of photos—posed, action, natural disasters, taken by our photographers, submitted by readers, submitted by organizations. We even print the dreaded “grip and grin” check passing, plaque-holding dreck. We do it because: 1. it sells papers and 2. it’s our job to report community events, not just the exciting and earthshaking journalistic stuff.
A posed shot of a Little League team, for example, sells papers not only to parents, but to the grandparents, aunts, uncles, teachers, scrapbooks, team sponsors, etc. A posed shot of a VFW officer presenting a check to a local charity encourages others to give, too. It also reminds people that the local VFW is more than just a local watering hole.
We won’t win a Pulitzer, but we’re happy serving our community.
What the ‘Locals’ Want
From Dianne Walker, publisher
The Dunlap (IA) Reporter
I totally agree with you about the group pictures. At the Reporter we call them “grip and grins.” The people in those ribbon cuttings, check passing, etc., are community leaders, business owners and they buy ads that make it possible for newspapers to exist.
The “photojournalist” pictures are hard to come by in a small town and the locals are not that impressed. They want pictures of their children, grandchildren, neighbors, people who have moved away, etc.
Newspapers keep trying to be magazines. We are not magazines. We give the local news and local human interest stories and local sports.
Don’t forget who’s reading your paper and who’s buying the ads!
FREE DESIGN EVALUATION: Ed Henninger offers design evaluations—at no charge and with no obligation—to readers of this column. For more information, check the FREEBIE page on Ed’s web site: www.henningerconsulting.com
ED HENNINGER is an independent newspaper consultant and the Director of Henninger Consulting. Offering comprehensive newspaper design services including redesigns, workshops, staff training and evaluations. E-mail: email@example.com. On the web: www.henningerconsulting.com. Phone: 803-327-3322.