I love this photograph by Scott Sommerdorf (above). Anyone who has covered a story like this knows how rare this photo is. These situations are tough for good photos, when a political figure is under the spotlight and access is tightly controlled.
I can easily imagine the scene behind Scott’s back at the moment he took the shot – a group of journalists, photographers and videographers are probably sitting around with their equipment on their laps waiting for the press conference to start (often that’s what I catch myself doing). And that’s why I love this one. Scott made a moment out of something we often tune out- the reality of what’s going on right in front of us while we wait for the photo op “to start.”
As the photo appeared on my screen and I felt the delight in seeing a great storytelling photograph leading off the article, I also realized how rare it was to see the best photograph paired up perfectly with an article online these days. It still happens in print, but rarely online.
Where is the photojournalism online?
There is no shortage of talent here in Utah. We are making great storytelling images like always. I see great work on your blogs and in your facebook posts. But tragically, it’s nearly impossible to find the best photographs on the websites of Utah’s newspapers.
These are all actual size:
I’ve spent the last month reading every Utah newspaper website regularly. The great photographs are often hidden in bloated galleries…
Or run as tiny thumbnails…
Or completely missing when a rash of viral content infects a site…
And in the worst cases, generic microstock imagery is used in place of real photojournalism.
We need to find answers to these trends quickly, before the value of what we do so well is forgotten.
Solutions have been rare. Judging from how the sites all look, local photo editors have little influence with how photos are used when it comes to the online product. Photos are seemingly attached to stories automatically, with little or no photo editing taking place. The main photos on articles often appear to have been chosen at random. And they are displayed very poorly in comparison to the printed newspaper.
None of the Utah newspapers have sites dedicated to their staff’s photojournalism, like you’ll find at many newspapers (LA Times, Denver Post, Mercury News, etc.). The best places to see local work displayed well is on individual photographers’ personal blogs (and only a few have regularly updated sites). Unfortunately, the audiences on those blogs are so small they’re not worth counting.
When the photo staff of the Chicago Sun-Times was laid off in one devastating blow earlier this year, the tragedy was bemoaned across the country. But nobody talked about one relevant fact that may have been behind the decision: The Sun-Times website didn’t use photography well at all. And if photography isn’t playing a big role on your website, why pay a staff of photographers?
That is a question that every outlet, including yours, will be asking themselves in the coming months and years.
Why do they need you?
You need to give them a reason to keep you. You have the talent. You are producing great photojournalism.
But is anyone seeing it?
Your job, and more importantly the visual history of Utah, depends on your response to those questions and what you decide to do about it.