Bad News Bears Sad Views

July 29, 2011 

Nobody will argue that life is full of imperfect moments. The clichés that try to make sense of these missteps are just as numerous. People tend to ignore this universal knowledge when it comes to photos in the paper, however. I've had people complain to me about the "horrible" photo I took of them just because it wasn't a posed snapshot in which the subject had a chance to deploy the photo face she developed over the years.

We're often accused of focusing on the negative, and there's no denying tragedies get the best play and the most eyeballs. Sometimes we key in on the small tragedies in sports, but those decisions are not made arbitrarily. While the SportsCenter mindset of visual sports coverage runs through the highlights of a team before noting that they lost horribly, my philosophy is that if you only have one still photo to try and tell the story of a game, it should reflect the outcome.

I'm not a monster, though, and when it comes to young athletes, there's a fine line between suitable and spiteful.

Last Thursday, I covered the first day of the 2011 Pacific Northwest Cal Ripken Regional Tournament. I was on the late shift, and the sports department had given us the two times that our local teams, the Kennewick National All-Stars (KN) and Kennewick American All-Stars (KA), were playing. The later one fit into my schedule, so I headed out a bit early to shoot a news-side feature.

I found these rambunctious twins entertaining themselves at the tail end of of their cousin's game. Failing at getting something of interest in the background for this wider shot,

I went with the tighter tongue-wagging tackle:

It turns out they were there for their cousin, who plays for KA. The already surprisingly long game was cut short via mercy rule in the fourth inning with KA crushing 12-2. Realizing this, I hustled over to at least get something of KA into the photo gallery and hoped KN had similar success.

I got a bad feeling while hanging in the dugout and seeing them crack open a can of relabeled lemonade:

The game was horrendous, as the eventual runner-up Willamette Valley All-Stars shut out KN 14-0. In the short time I had (2 1/2 innings in just over an hour), Willamette had racked up 10 runs and I had racked up a gallery full of KN errors and missed outs:

One unfortunate miscue resulted in a teammate tumble:

Obviously, the photo is not as good as if I had the peak collision with the ball squirting out of glove's reach, but they were turned away from me at that point. Still, it summed up a 14-0 drubbing the best out of any of my action shots from that game. Choosing that as the one photo for print would have been pretty harsh, though. Had the situation been at a professional, college or even high school game, I wouldn't have hesitated, but for 12- and 13-year-old players who are rarely featured in the paper, I couldn't do it.

I opted instead for this play at home in which the Willamette player safely makes it home:

I think it's a better photo, but the close nature of the play doesn't fit the story of a massive shutout as well. I felt bad that the local team that had dominated got less coverage than the one who got stomped, though, especially since we had just run a feature story on KN the day before. So when I looked at coverage options a couple days later, I made sure I was shooting KA.

I didn't make it for the start of the game, but was there in time to be horrified by Meridian's six-run second inning, which put them up 6-1. It's not that I have a vested interest in the team, I just would have felt even worse if all my coverage from this tournament was of local kids losing after missing out on a strong opening day by the host team. They roared back to tie the game in the third, though, and tacked on another in the fourth, keeping it interesting by holding that slim lead into the bottom of the sixth inning when Dillon Plew threw the final strikeout and thankfully celebrated in my direction with fellow pitcher Brycen Kelly:

It was the most fun I've had covering a baseball game, but I lived up to my sucky baseball action capturing. I did enjoy some of my snaps from around the dugout both during and after the game, though,

and went with the first celebration shot for the paper.

With the championship game looming, I crossed my fingers for another close finish and rearranged my Sunday to allow me to shoot the end of the final game. When I arrived to a 4-4 contest in the fourth inning, I was relieved. Unfortunately, the close game and relatively short time I was there made for a lack of feature shots:

That was fine since I shot the team the day before. I hoped to improve my action coverage and got a fun one of Hunter Spiva unknotting the score as coach Jeff Plew cheered him on:

If only the fans were more into it. My other action offering for the paper was lackluster considering how great the play was. A righty Willamette player hit oppo to second baseman Tracer Bjorge, who made an improbable catch and turned a double play. A quick play on the opposite side meant I missed the catch and had this pedestrian photo for the play:

It wasn't a spectacular catch, though, and was one of those plays that would be great on video, but hard to sum up in a still frame. KA hung onto their 6-4 lead, and thankfully gave me some different jubes to run with, including a dogpile,

and a nice ice bath for the coaches by two former players:

Parents and players might find our photo choices to be mean spirited when they lose, but I hope it's clear I don't make those decisions lightly. And even though I stand by the fact that we are not a free P.R. firm for local teams, it does feel better to get some fun winning images when our teams deserve it.

See more photos from the semifinal win.
See more photos from the championship game.

And while we're talking about who deserves what...

ABC news decided to end the slimy practice of paying for interviews. Sure, it's a big boy broadcast standard, but I've always thought that was a strange status quo even before I started studying journalism. I doubt others will follow suit, but it's a nice (perhaps calculated) move by ABC in the wake of Casey Anthony mania. As for including the end of high licensing fees associated with juicy photos, I can't help but feel it's a further slide in the marketability of images. I'm curious how the policy will apply when they seek to license newsworthy photos from people who aren't directly involved in the story.

Speaking of broadcast news, The Daily Show and The Colbert Report have some nice jabs at the cable guys this week, with Colbert showing a montage of make-believe reporting before the facts were out on Norway's tragic attacks last week, and Jon Stewart has a hilarious bit about CNN anchor Don Lemon's apparent bitterness toward the continued erosion of his employer's credibility.

Seattle Times photo editor Kevin Fuji has an interesting and personal take about a collection of Ansel Adams' photos from a Japanese internment camp that is on display now at the Bainbridge Island Historical Museum.

The LA Times announced another round of layoffs. This time, it seems some big names were sacrificed for the bottom line. While it's undeniably sad news, this memo by California editor Ashley Dunn provides a refreshing take on managerial statements during these times of endless bad news in the industry.

Newsweek has a gallery of Tim Hetherington's final photos. Hetherington, a photojournalist best known for his work in Restrepo, was killed in Libya on April 20.

And because I can't end on a heavy note like that, check out the chess set for the photo geek who has too much money.

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