Archive for the 'politics' Category

Photojournalists barred from selling reprints in Illinois

February 14, 2008

…in certain circumstances, that is.

This entire article rubs me the wrong way. Summary:

  1. News photographers, especially high school sports photographers, have been barred from access to sports games if their paper sells a lot of reprints online or if they won’t sign a form promising not to sell reprints.
  2. Some of these photographers directly make money from reprint sales; one from the Daily Southtown called a picture of a softball team cheering “the money shot.”
  3. The Illinois High School Association (IHSA), says this is necessary to protect the contract they have with VIP, a PR company hired to specifically take shots to sell to students and parents; revenue is shared with the school district. “We don’t have a problem with you giving them away or doing photo galleries online,” Anthony Holman, assistant executive director of the IHSA, told Bloomington’s Pantagraph last November.
  4. State Representative Joe Lyons has introduced House Bill 4582, which states that no school or school organization “may infringe upon or attempt to regulate in any manner the dissemination of news or the use of visual images by the news media…” which isn’t really what’s at stake here, is it? What’s at stake is the COMMERCIAL use of visual images by the news media.

There are so many things wrong with this. First, the IHSA is stepping way over its bounds. It doesn’t have the right to tell a newspaper what they can and can’t do with their photos. (The Illinois Press Association sued the IHSA to get access to the state football finals and lost the case. Has everyone in Illinois lost their minds?)

But on the other hand, a newspaper isn’t in–or shouldn’t be in–the business of selling reprints. Yet some are: “[V]isit the Web site of what’s now the SouthtownStar and you’ll see the paper means business. ‘Welcome to Southland Photo­Shoppe,’ it says. ‘Your shopping choices range from traditional prints to T-shirts, mugs, computer mouse pads and other items on which our photos are imprinted.’ A simple eight-by-ten is $25.” A newspaper is a public benefit, I believe the term is. It’s like a subway system or a museum in that it provides a value far greater than its monetary worth to shareholders. (Unlike subway systems and museums, newspapers aren’t kept afloat with government money. Probably a good thing, but the Beeb hasn’t often let me down…)

Alas, the sad fact of the news industry is that papers have to pursue outside interests and investments to remain viable. The Washington Post company owns Kaplan. The New York Times has Gannett owns a job site for nurses? (What? That one came as a surprise for me, too.) So if a small paper in Peoria (or whatever) needs an extra $2000 a year to keep afloat, it’s sad, crass, but necessary. I just somehow feel that the value of the”money shot” picture is more than the photograph itself. Does seeing yourself (or your kid) on the front page of your hometown newspaper not count as a value-add anymore? Isn’t that worth more than a framed photograph? Isn’t there a way for papers to capitalize on this without becoming commercial?

In the end, nobody wins here. As Lyons says, if VIP ever decides it’s not making enough money and pulls out and there’s nobody to take pictures, “Badda bing, badda boom, you’re taking your own photos.” News organizations that have been made to feel unwelcome for years are not going to flock back to take pictures of the high school chess club.



Tuesday’s Tools: the Slingshot Organizer

January 22, 2008

Well, it’s not a Moleskine. But for Christmas my sister went to an indie book shop and picked up the 2008 Slingshot Organizer, a move that I had previously thought was “so not her.” (Go sis!) The thing is printed by an all-volunteer collective in Berkeley and is just a tetch more interesting than your usual day planner…let’s just say that the “this day in history” messages marked on every date wouldn’t make Rush Limbaugh happy.

It looks like each page is printed with hand-drawn designs. Also, each month looks slightly different from the next, as if each was designed by a different artist. It’s just the right mixture of wacky and left-wing wacky that I can appreciate.

I’m experimenting with new organizational systems in the new year and so far I can wholeheartedly endorse the Slingshot. (If you want to BUY it, well, that’s tougher. Here’s a partial list of bookstores that carry it—though by now they may be sold out—and at the bottom of this page is a list of online retailers. And if you do make a purchase? The silver ink on black paper—the colors of the cover I own—look WAY cooler.

Poynter covers disabilities

June 21, 2007

Two recent posts on Poynter about writing about people with disabilites caught my attention recently: [1] [2]

I think most of us have gotten past the poor high school girl’s quandary in #2:”I wanted to write a good story about overcoming obstacles,” she said. It’s important to write what happened, not try to fit notes into a preconceived pattern. But there’s a lot of ground to cover between that girl’s reporting and the New York Times articles mentioned in #1.

This has been on my mind recently because of my story about Becca Hart. And now of course I realize that I did use the word “obstacles” quite a few times, but–I believe–not in a bad way. And Hart, when I spoke to her, was humble and had a great sense of humor–not “cranky, dismissive, angry, horny, obnoxious.”

So, good things to think about either way. What’s certain is that Poynter’s pieces couldn’t have come at a better time.

Vox: Getting press coverage

May 15, 2007

My friend Vox wrote an excellent post this morning on getting mainstream media to pay attention to issues that don’t get enough coverage. Not only that, but her guide includes tips that any writer who wants to break into newspapers can use.


Write a lede that is one or two sentences long and says, without any adjectives or colorful language, exactly what the story is writing about. Here’s a good example from Fox News: “Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa condemned the Police Department’s use of force against demonstrators and reporters at an immigration rally, saying he was ‘deeply, personally troubled’ by the clash.” [This is harder than it sounds. I still struggle with this, of course–I’m just starting out–but I know even well-established journalists have to pay special attention to their ledes. A class I was in last semester spent about seven weeks on writing ledes only–and half the students still hadn’t got it by the end.]

Use “said” or “asked” when quoting someone. Do not use “shouted,” “whined,” or anything else. There are exceptions to this, but when in doubt, just avoid it. [I’m so glad I’m done with professors who hand out “Words to use in place of ‘said'” sheets in their writing classes. Yes, people actually do this, and I’m baffled as to why. It’s not doing anyone any favors to make students think that using a thesaurus indiscriminately–especially for dialogue tags–is good writing.]

There are more tips at the original post. I’d like to see a follow-up post about how to actually get your story seen by an editor (which maybe I’ll tackle later), but this is a great start. Check it out here.

Ethnic and racial labels

April 24, 2007

Having just finished writing a major project about a predominantly Spanish-speaking neighborhood in Brooklyn, I figured that now was the time to finally figure out the proper label for immigrants from Central and South America.*

 I remembered learning something about how “Hispanic” was a term created not so long ago, not a term preferred by the people to whom we assign this label. What I was not prepared for was these paragraphs in the Wikipedia article about the word:

The confusion that arises is from the similarity between the words Latino and Latin, and between the concept of Hispanic and Latino. Latino is a shortened version of the noun Latinoamericano (Latin American). In the Spanish language “Latín” (Latin) is the name of the language of the Romans. This means that “Latín” is not confined solely to Hispanics, Latin Americans, or Latinos, but has always included such European peoples as the Italians, French, Romanians, Portuguese, etc.

Thus, of a group consisting of a Brazilian, a Colombian, a Mexican, a Spaniard, and a Romanian; the Brazilian, Colombian, and Mexican would all be Latinos, but not the Spaniard or the Romanian, since neither Spain nor Romania is geographically situated in Latin America. Conversely, the Colombian, Mexican and Spaniard would all be Hispanics, but not the Romanian and the Brazilian; Brazilians speak Portuguese as Brazil has evolved from the former Portuguese colony in South America. Finally, all of the above nationalities would be Latin, including the Romanian. To further clarify, a Latino is a US citizen or resident of Latin American descent or birth…

The term is oftern rejected by some Hispanics, because they consider Hispanic to be too general as a label, while others consider it offensive, often preferring to use the term Latino, which is viewed as a self-chosen label…

The majority of Hispanic Americans do not identify as Hispanic or Latino, but instead with their national origin, e.g. Mexican-American.

 What I’m getting from this is twofold. One: “Latino” is the proper term, though in a perfect world I would identify each person in Sunset Park by their national origin (which I believe is predominantly Dominican, judging by the turnout on Dominican Independence Day last summer). Two: Labels are damn confusing.

Next I’m going to blog about my journalism teacher who insisted that a writer who capitalized the word “Black” had made a typo in her query letter “because in the AP style manual, it isn’t capitalized.” See you then.

*Not really; I’ve been worrying vaguely about the problem all semester. Also, I don’t even think that “immigrants from Central and South America” is completely correct.