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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