Thursday, April 25, 2013

Looking at technology in 1979. It was TV or print.

I remember hearing from the Philadelphia Inquirer's Executive Editor, Gene Roberts, (later Managing Editor at the NY Times) how he saw the need for newspapers to tell people what was going to happen.  Television told everyone at 10pm what had happened during the day, so why read a morning newspaper?

Roberts liked investigative reporting and didn't buy the USA Today's no jumps, short articles. I'd worked at other papers that covered press conferences, but he felt the paper could find their own stories and refused to write a story simply about a press conference.

Buckminster Fuller lecturing about the shape of things.
This view of the news was hard for the photo staff. Taking photos of an event before it happened! But photos were what readers noticed and pulled them to read the story to find out more.

Reporters had weeks to research and interview people, then edit it down and write the article. They didn't know what info they'd use till they started writing. Sending a photographer out with the reporter often resulted in having great pictures, but no mention in the story. The photos then were never published, if it called attention to something only briefly mentioned near the end of the article.

To solve this problem it meant waiting for the story to be written then recontacting the people to set up a time to take the photo. This actually was the best, going together meant the subject had to worry about the reporters questions and didn't have time to be told to stand here and look this way. Photo editors called to get the subject in the right location at the right time, Not distracted by the reporter's needs and questions. (Although sometimes during an interview the subject will make some great expressions and gestures.)

Getting the best photo was easier, since the photographer had a copy of the story. Could pose the subject in a similar environment. Reporters however thought the best picture was the one the reader formed in their mind. They wanted to describe the scene, the way the subject looked in terms that would help tell who the subject was. Why not have the picture show the person?

I remember one story where the Inquirer saw how a new hotel was being completed and they planned a big ribbon cutting. Roberts wanted to beat television and run a story the morning of the ribbon cutting, let the TV channels cover the ribbon cutting. The morning Inquirer would write about the architect and what unique features he designed for the hotel.

The photo department set up an appointment to take an environmental portrait in his office. Laying out the paper there was a problem. The reporter wrote about how laid-back the architect was wearing tennis hoes and blue jeans. But, the photo was of a guy in a suit and tie!

The story ran the next morning, so everyone knew what was going to happen later in the day. Beating out television. Did anyone notice the lede of the story didn't match the photo?

I remember this watching the Bush Library dedication, I had taken Roberts the view that with live TV coverage, other pubs needed to tell what was going to happen before it happened. I thought editors would want photos for a weekly preview of upcoming events, and I tried to get photos of them setting up the exhibits.

It was surprising how little preview coverage there was. The local papers ran special sections the Dallas Morning News on Sunday and the Ft Worth Star-Telegram and Dallas Business Journal coming out three weeks earlier. It was free advertising for the Presidential Library and Museum, hopefully it motivated residents to then watch it live on TV.

CBS tied in a tour inside with Charlie Rose interviewing both President Bush and Laura Bush.

I wonder what will be on the evening news?
After the fact, S.F. Examiner

I also wonder about the new trend for the reporter to take the photos to go with the story. Having been a writer and a photographer, I realized that to take photos first was a mistake. You were chatting, which led into quotes and missing the picture. It's best to do the interview and then concentrate on the photo. But you've already taken up so much of there time, you just take a few photos. Not good.

If you are writing the sorry, or interviewing a person for a video, you need to concentrate on the questions and followup question. The photojournalist is listening and looking, worried about lighting and getting it in focus, but also composition. Hearing what the subject is saying brings out where to pose the subject. Maybe show them working with or on something. So what he is talking about, while the reporter takes notes.

I don't think one person can do both, take photos and take notes. Just running a Q&A doesn't give all the facts. Video flies by too quickly and I think freezing the moment in a still photo lets the viewer study and remember who, what, where and when.

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