Write on, man!

October 18, 2013 

It's been an interesting week. With a short-staffed photo desk, already, most of the reporters have been busy working on election stories, so I've pulled double (and triple) duty four times since last Thursday, when I covered the grand opening of Branches and Vines in Benton City for the business page.

It was the first time I'd written a story since I covered Mid-Columbia Pride this summer, but that was the first one since the Mormon trek a couple years ago. People have illogically assumed that my goal is to become a full-on writer and that photojournalism is a lesser means to that end, but the opposite is actually true.

Back in 2005, I had just interviewed for a photojournalist position at my college paper, the Oregon Daily Emerald. After failing to get the job in a previous attempt, I came more prepared for this interview and felt it went OK. As I was leaving, a news editor flagged me down and asked if was comfortable writing a story. Legendary marathon runner Alberto Salazar was speaking and they didn't have a reporter to cover it.

I found the article and thankfully my byline isn't still on it because that picture is really awful.

I did well enough, though, and got the job.

Grand openings for stores, like presentations, are tough to shoot. It's easy to get the obvious shot of people at the podium, cutting the ribbon, or doing any number of other boring things. It's harder to find a real moment amongst the contrived event, though, and that showed here, with a boilerplate high and wide-angle shot of people buying things:

I think the story turned out better than the photo.

On Monday, crews delivered the cupola for the Gesa Carousel of Dreams and I covered it solo, making the ill-advised decision to shoot video in addition to stills and writing. Less than 90 people bothered to watch it anyway,

and my photos of the delivery weren't great. Setting up on an intersection on 10th Avenue for the still would have made for a better picture than the straightforward snap of the cupola crossing the cable bridge:

Although Ken Johanning's silly hardhat made for a decent second photo:


Tuesday's Eid al-Adha celebration in West Richland found me writing once again, though, squeezing a story and a decent photo gallery within about an hour of reporting.

These two photos ran in the paper,

and here are some other favorites from the gallery:



I felt like a bona fide reporter on this story because I got some nice hate mail. Usually, people write the reporter, even when they're only offended by the photo. Here's what this reader had to say:

Opening the TCH first thing this morning, floored me seeing the two- colored pictures on the front page of the Muslim celebration.

The writers/contributors for the TCH have increasing worked hard to sensationalize stories from Muslim celebrations, to abortions to murders. You have done a wonderful job of it, and I honestly commend you! You do an excellent job of putting fear into our hearts first thing in the morning. And I say that with all honesty. Oh, yes, they, the Muslims, deserve recognition, too, don't they? Today's article of "In Honor of Sacrifice" went over the top--2 colored pictures, including an 8 -year old child. Now follow up this Muslim story with the true Biblical account of Abraham and Isaac. I dare you. They deserve front- page, two- colored pictures, too. Oh, but this is from the Bible. You don't want the Bible on the front page! After all, you do not want to offend anyone. I have been wanting to stop our subscription to the TCH for some time and just this week received a letter stating that our monthly subscription goes up to over $15. That give me one more reason to think seriously about stopping my TCH subscription after all these years.

The sentiment isn't surprising, but still ridiculous. We've covered Easter, Ash Wednesday and Christmas celebrations every year I've been here, as well as numerous other religious celebrations around the community.

In fact, the next day, I covered a Lutheran-sponsored appearance of the Second Harvest mobile food bank in Pasco. I hope the angry email writer congratulated herself for forcing our hand in religious coverage. I hadn't planned on writing another daily story, but the event warranted a story as 1,200 or so people turned up.

Once again, my visual coverage suffered, with a few standard photos I cobbled into a small photo gallery:

Somebody liked the package enough to write me, though:

Good story on the Second Harvest truck in Pasco....Thanks for the well-chosen words, and the photo was particularly well done. You and the photographer put a face on this issue without using a close-up of a face. Well-written story. Wish we had this kind of journalism in Walla Walla.

People so rarely write in with positive feedback, and it felt good to get some reader kudos. And for a fun bonus, I got to pass along the compliment to the photographer telepathically.

Note to newbie photographers: working for a photo credit is pretty worthless since nobody reads photo credits.

It's been a fun challenge to flex my word reporting skills a bit this week and I hope I did these stories justice. I've always viewed myself as a versatile journalist, working on a wide range of skills that I hope will keep me employed in this industry for a while. I don't have any delusions that writing a few articles puts me on par with our reporters, though. Swap out these four assignments with four city council meetings and I would have been quickly reminded why I pursued photojournalism. Filing public records requests and performing the dry-but-important tasks just doesn't interest me.

But give me a chance to get out in the community and talk to people, and I'm happy to tell their stories through words and pictures.

Speaking of double duty...

Chicago Tribune photojournalist Alex Garcia wrote a nice response to Chicago Sun-Times CEO Michael Ferro's statement about the Sun-Times' mass layoff of its photojournalists:

I am very sympathetic toward [the photographers]. If I were in their shoes, I would feel bad too. It would be like you’re a carriage driver and the cars come and you’re really upset that you can’t have your buggy whip and hit your horse anymore.

To add insult to injury, the Sun-Times just ran a house ad for "striking, one-of-a-kind photos from the Sun-Times archive!"

Nice.

Red Bull released the stomach-churning action-cam footage from Felix Baumgartner's Stratos skydive from 128,100 feet up last year.

The British Journal of Photography has an interesting piece about the importance of being a networked photojournalist.

Check out a list of some photographers to follow on Instagram.

And Baltimore Ravens photographer Phil Hoffmann should get a purple heart to match the Ravens' color scheme after tearing his Achilles during a recent game. He came back in a walking boot to finish working the game.

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