May 17, 2013

The case of the missing photographs

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , — Bob Patterson @ 12:30 pm

Just because a photo is ubiquitous on the internet, that doesn’t mean that a columnist has permission to use that particular picture.  A columnist can either do a lot of clerk work to get permission to use a particular image or he can start carrying a camera and take pictures that he will give himself permission to run and then start to learn html coding.

When a photo librarian for the Associated Press got a request, in 1966, from LIFE magazine for a copy of the picture of Lee Harvey Oswald being shot by Jack Ruby, things got complicated when the future World’s Laziest Journalist noticed a copyright notice on the photo.  According to the ground rules the lowly photo librarian had to say “no” to one of the biggest and most prestigious members of the news coop organization.  It was the weekend and it was quite likely that there were no managers around to consult.  Then the beleaguered photo librarian ran into the AP’s Chief Executive Officer in the hall.  We quickly explained the dilemma.  He asked “What would you do if I weren’t here?”  We told him the ground rules required me to say “no.”  He hesitated a beat and then said:  “Pretend you didn’t see me.”

A column containing that vignette would be so much more eye appealing, if we could run the image of the murder happening but since it seems unlikely that even if the columnist started on Sunday morning to track down the copyright owner and get permission to use it online, the self imposed deadline of doing all that in time to post the column on Friday May 17, 2013 renders the question moot.  It will be easier to relate the incident and then challenge readers to do a Google Image search for the famous photo.

Since images enhance the drawing power of online postings, it is tempting to toss any old image on the top of the column and hope for the best, but a rudimentary acquaintance with photography indicates that the image needs more eye appeal than, for example, a snapshot of the columnist at a recent college commencement program.

If a columnist has talked shop with more Pulitzer Prize winning photographers (three) than reporters (one), then perhaps it might be realistic to assume such a fellow can make a valid claim to a better than a beginners knowledge of photojournalism and therefore should have a legitimate claim to having some photo editing competence.  If such a person wants to run photos he took, he knows there will be no hassles about permission to use any of those images with his column.  The unauthorized use of a copyrighted photograph could cause a remarkable increase in the amount of non productive clerk work and the best way for the World’s Laziest Journalist to avoid that unnecessary drudgery is to only use photos taken with his personal Coolpix.

It helps, of course, if the selected image has something to do with the contents in the column, but if the columnist has established his niche in the “three dot journalism” style of running multiple short items that cover a wide swath of subject matter just about any photo of anything could be deemed germane and useable as long as it was a good image.

In the past we have recounted getting a photo lesson in the AP lunch room from Eddie Adams and that name will impress folks who know the history of photojournalism, but folks who don’t recognize the name might like to know he is the guy who took the famous picture of the Police Chief in Saigon blowing out the brains of a suspect.  Tracking down permission to run that image is more clerk work than time permits so, again, we refer to curious to the wonders of the Google Image search site.

Do we need to get permission to post a photo we took?  Some time back, while working as a columnist for Just Above Sunset online magazine, we got the chance to take a ride on a B-17-G and write the story about the experience.  At one point, we borrowed the camera being used by Alan Pavlik, the photographer and the web site’s editor and publisher.  We flopped down flat on the ground and took one photo.  Now, it seems prudent that we secure his permission to use that photo (which was published with a large selection of the photos he took) with this column.  Once we got that permission (10-Q message sent) it should be a piece of cake.

It didn’t work so click on this link:

(Readers may have to copy that URL and paste it into their browser.)

Our flight on the B-17-G was something that had been on our bucket list since high school, but in the tradition of fair and balanced journalism and in the tradition of the Ford vs. Chevrolet debate, we may still have some more work to do.  An assortment of WWII aircraft from the Wings of Freedom Tour (see more info at is coming to the SF Bay area and if we get a chance to get a ride on the B-24 that is coming to Moffett Federal Air Field next week, we could then do the judicious thing and cast our vote in the B-17 vs. the B-24 controversy.

We will probably go out to Moffett and take some photos of the WWII aircraft and mention the expedition in a future column because that will give us a convenient excuse to run (at least) one of those photos.

Speaking of missing photos and B-17’s, about a half century ago (how can that be if we are only 28 years old?  [Haven’t researchers proved that everyone online is 28 years old?]), we were reading up on the Liberation of Paris in WWII and we came across an account of a wild cowboy American pilot who flew a B-17 between the legs of the Eiffel Tower to fly under it.  It outraged the French people because of the reckless disregard for their national icon.  We saw one photo of the stunt back when we read about it but we have never seen a copy of that image online.

The editors at LIFE magazine knew the allure of a stand alone shot because of the popularity of their “Parting Shot” feature, which drew numerous submissions each week.  We have, in previous columns, suggested that the editors of LIFE and some commercial entity, such as Nikon and/or Eastman Kodak, should collaborate on an online version of that popular feature.  (Hellfire, if they need an editor to select one photo a day to be featured as the best, we know of a fellow in Berkeley who might volunteer his services.)  If they adapted a policy where every submission appeared online and each day one was selected as Best of the Day, they would probably get some fairly impressive hit numbers and submissions.

What makes an image jump off the computer screen?  There are plenty of hot rods with flame paint jobs and there are a great many Rolls Royce automobiles in the world but when we did a Google Image search for a Rolls Royce with a flames paint job we found only two valid suggestions.  One of them was a shot we took in Berkeley CA and posted on our photoblog.

Recently, in our attempt to do a survey of the contemporary pop culture scene, we came across the concept of “soap opera news,” and getting a chance to take a photo to illustrate a column on that topic, would be challenging.

This week, Norman Goldman, tipped his listeners to a US Supreme Court Case decision in the case of Robert Pelkey’s towed car that could serve as an example of soap opera news.

The World’s Laziest Journalist has been quite critical of the journalism industry.  We recently lambasted CBS Evening News for relying too much on footage of an interviewee crying.  Aren’t those weeping people interviews Exhibit A in the case to prove the existence of Soap Opera News?  We are not too sure about the legality of taking a photo of the TV screen showing an example of the soap opera news crying phenomenon and so we only mentioned it.  We note with interest the fact that last weekend Scott Pelley shook up the Journalism world by seconding our idea that America’s free press has become a parody of itself.  Come to think of it, some of the blustery anchors do remind us of that sly old fox, Marshal Rooster Cogburn (John Wayne) in the film “True Grit.”

Doing some digging to find some interesting tidbits of information and going places (such as Moffett Field) to see some interesting things and to watch some events happen helps the World’s Laziest Journalist cope with the challenge of breaking the boredom barrier in Berkeley.  It helps if we come up with some material that is new and unique.  Such as?  Isn’t it about time for an announcement be made and AP to run some photos of the location for where the Obama Presidential Library will be built?  Have your other sources for political punditry hipped you to the latest pop culture phenomenon named Paris Jackson?

While Fox reports on the latest Obama scandals, aren’t the treehuggers who are disappointed in the XL pipeline, the potheads who are miffed about the crackdowns on medical marijuana dispensaries, and the peaceniks who disapprove of all drone strikes (not just the ones Dubya authorized) supposed to rally to Obama’s defense?  Lotsa luck on that.

Charles Batman, the managing editor of the Santa Monica Independent Journal Newspapaers once said:  “I have seen the future of Rock and Roll and it is . . . litigation.”

Now the disk jockey will play our highly subjective list of the best one hit wonder (that qualification eliminates Les Paul and Duane Eddy from consideration) guitar recordings.  He will play Link Wray’s “Rumble,” Jorgan Ingman’s “Apache,” and Jody Reynold’s “Endless Sleep.”  We have to go charge the batteries for our Nikon Coolpix camera.  Have a “keep ‘em flying” type week.

October 12, 2012

An illustration online is worth . . .

Filed under: Commentary — Tags: , , , — Bob Patterson @ 1:29 pm

San Francisco was wowed by the Navy Blue Angels last weekend.
Berkeley provides political activists with a smorgasbord of causes.
What was with the black spot on Mitt’s lapel pin flag?

Becoming a noteworthy protester in Berkeley CA is a formidable challenge. If a person selects a unique topic for his protest action, that might be a way to stand out from the crowd. A columnist who wanted to draw attention to such a noticeable cause could explain in words what was motivating the fellow, but a still photo that would let people read the sign that the folks see on Shattuck Ave. in downtown Berkeley would be a more visually appealing way of providing the information to the audience.

In our previous column, we mentioned that folks online were speculating about what the black dot on Mitt Romney’s flag lapel pin meant. Most folks who read that item had probably seen the debate on TV, but it would have been better if we could have illustrated the topic with a picture of the item that drew the comments. We had taken some photos of the TV screen but because of deadline considerations were not able to do all the prep work to get the photos online with the column posted on the Friday morning following the Wednesday night event.

LIFE magazine started publishing a weekly publication of top notch photojournalism at a time when newsreels of world events were ubiquitous. Some time back LIFE began to publish the best examples of the day’s photojournalism on their website. Then suddenly that aspect of their website was suspended.

The first time this columnist ever saw Eddie Adams’ photo of a guy being shot in the head by the Saigon Police Chief was right after it moved on the AP wirephoto network. A photo editor for a daily newspaper in Pennsylvania asked if we wanted to see the picture that would win the Pulitzer Prize next spring for best news photo. His assessment of it was spot-on correct and most folks will know what particular image we mean. Tracking down someone who could give permission to use that very photo with this column would take a lot of work and again deadlines indicate it isn’t worth an exorcise in futility to try to get that permission. We will assume people know the image we mean.

The Wall Street Journal website has a daily roundup of news photos. The Daily Beast website features one “best” newsphoto each day. The Bag News Notes website has a list of links for people interested in photojournalism and if we had home access to the Internets, we would probably spend an hour or more each day doing a quick reconnaissance sweep of those links. But we don’t; so we don’t.

Why doesn’t some website become the “go to” source for the day’s best images just like the Huffington Post has become for verbiage?

Aren’t college level courses in protests being taught at UCB? Berkeley CA is a smorgasbord of political issues. Peace is a perennial issue. This fall a new attempt to establish a sit-lie ordinance will be decided by the voters in Berkeley. Sidewalk etiquette has become the issue for one fellow. Perhaps he views our concern about the diminished status of photojournalism online to be very Don Quixote-ish.

When the first Presidential debate ended on October 3, we noticed that less than an hour later CBS News was reporting on KCBS radio in San Francisco, that Mitt Romney had received a decisive win according to a poll. They blithely informed listeners of the results but did not elaborate on details of how and where the poll had been conducted. It sounded like spin to this columnist and we were very disheartened to not that when the World’s Laziest Journalist is skeptical about the quality of journalism provided by Edward R. Murrow’s successors, then the death of “freedom of the press” in the USA is a moot topic.

Sadly, a column featuring a photo with a show business celebrity would probably draw more readers than a serious consideration of the future of Democracy in a country with a dead free press would get. We heard a report by CBS radio news’ Larry Maggot saying that anything online with an accompanying illustration gets more attention. We used to work with a fellow who became Time magazine’s White House correspondent. One of his favorite axioms was: “Monkey see, monkey do.” We like to think he would approve of using snapshots with a tenuous connection to our columns.

Do people out there in digital land want to read a column pointing out that President Obama seems to be ignoring the fact that if he doesn’t convince voters to vote not just for him but for the other Democratic candidates participating in attempts to win Congressional and Senate seats, then he might get a second term that will be a continuation of the current legislative gridlock and the net result for the citizens in the poor and middle class will remain grim? What happens to that topic if we can’t get a relevant photo to go with that topic? Would it be better to make the extra effort to get a snazzy photo to accompany a column on that topic or is it just a waste of time and energy?

When AP staff photographer Eddie Adams advised us (in the employee lunchroom at 50 Rock) to discard the ever ready case we were putting on a newly acquired Nikon F, he also provided us with a closing quote for this column: “It’s a Nikon; you can drive nails with it.”

Now the disk jockey will play the Grand Canyon Suite, the Loving Spoonful’s song “On the Road Again,” and Paul Simon’s song “Kodachrome.” We have to go on Coolpix patrol. Have a “regional split” type week.

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