Calling Your Local Newspaper

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What should you do now that you've got the pictures in your camera? Call the largest newspaper in town. Ask to speak to the City Desk or the Photo Editor. Whoever takes your call, explain what has happened, describe the photographs you have taken, and stress that there were no other photographers on the scene. (Because you will be calling the papers - and possibly the tv stations - if you are serious about entering this field, right now you should look up and write down the phone numbers of all the local papers and tv stations, and carry the list with you at all times so you never have to waste even a moment getting a number!)

As we noted earlier, most newspapers will ask you to come in and allow them to process your film. This is standard procedure and you can generally trust the newspaper. Most newspapers will be able to develop your film (color or B/W negative) within an hour after you reach the newspaper. In short order, someone (either the Photo Editor or another editor) will look at your processed film and tell you whether the paper is interested.

If the editor is interested, the paper will want to make a deal with you on the spot. Generally, the editor will want to buy the negatives from you for the pictures they wish to use. Sell them only the negatives they request. Get back the rest of your processed film, because you may have other uses for the pictures. For example, if an accident results in legal proceedings, your pictures may have important value as evidence.

If it's a story of local interest only, you might get paid in the range of $10 to $25 per picture. It's probably wise to accept and ask for a photo credit. You might ask for a little more, but don't hold out for hundreds of dollars. They won't pay it and your attitude won't encourage the editor to ask you to cover any events in the future.

On the other hand, if there's a national or international celebrity involved, you should not make a deal too quickly. You've got lots of potential customers in addition to the local newspaper- including the local tv stations, the wire services, the gossip magazines. Some editors will suggest that the paper will distribute the photo to other news sources and share the proceeds with you. Other editors will offer to pay you more for exclusive rights to the image, reserving the right to themselves to make secondary sales and keep all the proceeds.

What should you do? It's hard to give definite advice, but we can list some factors that you should consider:

First consideration: How big is the story? If your picture has national interest because it involves a celebrity, is your subject a hot star, or someone who was more popular several years ago? You can often make lots of sales (and money) from pictures showing today's superstars or members of royal families or national politicians making fools of themselves. But yesterday's stars are often yesterday's news and may not be of interest to too many publications.

Second consideration: What do you want to achieve? If you'd like to develop a relationship with the editor and get some assignments in the future, be firm but reasonable. You won't get another call if you act like a prima donna.

Third consideration: What are your options? Are there other big papers or tv stations nearby that might be interested? How close are deadlines? Do you have time to shop around? If you think the story is really big, call the nearest office of a wire service such as AP. They have branch offices in all major cities and in every state capital. (You should have their phone numbers in your list too.)

Fourth consideration: Is there someone whose opinion would be helpful? If you think you have a really big picture, you could check with the family lawyer or with someone you might know who works in journalism or publishing. And don't forget-you can always call your Student Advisor at NYI for advice.

You may hear stories of photographers who didn't realize what they had and made a bad deal with a shifty photo editor who then took their picture of Jackie O or Madonna or Princess So-and-So and got rich. Don't believe them. Most of these stories are fiction. Our advice: If the editor seems reasonable, make a deal. Remember, the editor works for an important paper in the community. If you eventually feel that you were treated unfairly, you can always complain to the publisher. But we think the great likelihood is that you will be treated fairly.

Returning to our situation, let's suppose the pictures you have taken are of strictly local significance, and the editor looks at the film as it comes from the darkroom and decides that the paper is not interested in them. Thank the editor, and rush to call the next biggest paper or the tv station. Explain the facts and that you have had the film processed. Find out if they are interested in looking at them.

Don't forget to contact any local weekly neighborhood newspapers that might be interested. An accident near the entrance to the parking lot of the local shopping center might not be of interest to the readers of a big city newspaper, but the local weekly that covers that portion of town will be interested in using the story since a large percentage of its readers might have heard about the accident or have an interest in traffic problems around the shopping center.

By now you're probably thinking that this is all veiy interesting, but nothing like this could ever happen to you. Well, you're wrong. Spot news, like lightning, is very unpredictable. If you don't believe this, consider the stories of two NYI students just like yourself - Bill Whetsel and Eli Ordaz. They make perfect case studies of how it can happen to you - if you work to make it happen.

Case Study - 1: Airport Disaster.

Bill Whetsel has always loved photography, and shortly after he got manned, his wife suggested he enroll in the NYI Course. He did, and pursued his hobby evenings and weekends. His regular job was as a supervisor of baggage handlers at LaGuardia Airport in New York. One evening when he was at home, he heard over the radio of a major airplane crash at LaGuardia. Whetsel knew, as we discuss later in this lesson, that the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) will usually keep the scene of an airplane crash closed - even to the press -for hours until the preliminary investigation is complete. So he quickly donned his LaGuardia job uniform, and raced to the aiiport with his 35mm camera and his NYI PhotoWorld Press Card.

Because he was a familiar face to the airport security people and because he was in uniform, he was able to go right through to the crash site and take pictures without showing any credentials. He shot two rolls of film. Although he lacked a tripod and had to use slow exposures shooting at night in a freezing sleet storm, he had an exclusive.

Whetsel called a local tv station, and they told him to rush over with the undeveloped film. They processed it, held it for a few hours, but ultimately decided to use television footage shot by one of their camera crews from a boat outside the portion of the airport that was closed by the FAA investigation. He called local newspapers, but by then they had pictures from their own photographers taken after the crash site was opened. He called some of the national magazines, but their deadlines were days away so they could wait to get pictures taken by their own photographers. He should have been discouraged, but he persisted. One of the editors he had called suggested that he take his pictures to a particular photo agency that had clients around the world. He did.

The rest is history. Sweet history. The photo agency took his pictures and got them published nationally and internationally. One of them even ran as a color spread in the nationally distributed Star. Bill received payment from the agency for every publication of his pictures, and - perhaps as important - photo credits that appeared in periodicals around the world.

Now he never travels without a camera. (By the way, Bill was in only the first Unit of his NYI Course when this occurred!)

Case Study - 2: A Celebrity Visit.

Another case study: A few years ago, NYI graduate Eli Ordaz, a working professional photographer in Stockton, California, was en route to a job when he heard over the radio that pop superstar Michael Jackson was going to visit a local elementary school to offer sympathy to the pupils who, had been traumatized when a crazed gunman ran into the school's playground and sprayed the students with automatic gunfire. Five children died; many were wounded. It was about two weeks later that Jackson, known for his desire to avoid publicity most of the time, decided to pay a surprise visit to the school to boost the students' spirits.

Ordaz drove directly to the school. In the excitement he was allowed to walk into the school unquestioned. He made friends with a janitor who led him to a location where he could get a good angle for covering the classroom that Jackson was scheduled to visit.

Jackson's appearance was a tremendous lift to the students and faculty. In less than two hours he was gone. No other news photographers were there, and Ordaz had a big exclusive. Knowing that no one else had these pictures, and given the strong human interest in the story, Ordaz chose to have the film processed at a local lab. He then called a major magazine but the editor there was unwilling to make a commitment. Ordaz then called the National Enquirer. They requested that he send a contact sheet by Federal Express, and upon inspecting it the next day, the supermarket tabloid offered to purchase a two-week exclusive for the U.S. Market. He accepted. (Ordaz notes that his haste to give them an exclusive led to his having to turn down both Time and Newsweek who were also interested. Such is fate.)

But that's not the end. While the Enquirer had an exclusive for the U.S. market, Ordaz was able to sell his pictures overseas. In fact, his photos were published in England, France, Germany, Norway, and Japan.

The bottom line was that Ordaz earned nearly $14,000 from the photographs from this one serendipitous shoot.

There's an epilogue to the story worth telling. Ordaz wanted to give something back to the students at the tragic school, so he designed a poster collage of his photos of the Jackson visit, had two thousand copies printed, and donated them all to the children of the school.

Conclusion: These are just two success stories of NYI students who had a nose for news, acted quickly, and worked hard to get their pictures published. It can happen to you. So be prepared. Always carry a camera, some film, and keep your eyes open.

What It Takes To Succeed.

If a photojournalist possesses any special quality, it is the instinct for what makes newsworthy photographs. Many photographers may have a broader theoretical knowledge of photographic technique. But the news photographer has the instinct for news, and does everything possible - even if it breaks the rules of photographic technique-to get the picture that tells the stoiy in the most effective manner. That's the job!

Photojournalists are fast. Time is of the essence, and often when the picture is shot it's time to leave the scene and get back to the paper to make the deadline. The desire for "just one more picture" cannot delay the photojournalist once the shot is "in the camera."

Because they can't waste any time fumbling with their equipment, photojournalists have to be totally comfortable with their equipment. They take pictures under stress - smoky conditions, gunfire, riot, mayhem - and they can't afford to make a mistake with exposure or focus or lens length. When things are tough, familiarity with film and camera equipment makes it easy to devote total attention to getting the picture - to produce usable negatives under conditions that lesser photographers would term "impossible."

Photojournalists have the advantage that they usually shoot half a dozen or more rolls of film every working day. This helps them keep theh photographic "muscles" and instincts well-toned.

In addition to technical skills, successful photojournalists must have people skills. They have to be tactful and friendly...get along with people of all ages and temperaments...handle the diplomat, the police officer, and the local bartender with equal coolness. The photojournalist must also know the geographical area since getting to a particular location quickly may mean the difference between getting a picture and losing one. Above all, the photojournalist must use whatever means necessary to get the picture, learn to accept difficulty and rejection, but never take "no" for an answer.

So the photojournalist needs speed, familiarity with equipment, human relations, and a knowledge of the "turf." These are skills that can be developed.

But the other skill - the nose for news - is harder to develop. The photojournalist is part sleuth and part psychologist, but he or she must also have a discerning eye to capture the "human interest" picture and be able to see the commonplace in a new and interesting light. When the action is front and center, as in spot and general news events, it is easy to know what to photograph. But at other times the important subject may be more subtle. To add power to feature photographs and picture stories, leam to see things that others miss - the teardrop in the eye of a spectator, the hat lying in the gutter - the pieces that speak with more dramatic impact than the whole.

To be a successful photojournalist you don't have to travel around the world to find powerful human dramas to photograph. They are happening all around. No matter where you live, at every moment of every day some people in your community are enjoying the thrill of victory and joy, while others are suffering the agony of defeat and loss. Your job as a photojournalist is to see - and photograph - human drama that others might fail to see.

Photography For The Daily Newspaper.

To help you understand what photojournalism is like in "real life," we're going to take you "on location" to a typical American daily newspaper. In this case study we'll travel with the papers photographers, look over the shoulder of the Chief of Photography as he hands out photography assignments to his staff, watch the editors lay out an edition of the paper, and see how today's digital darkroom speeds high-quality full-color news photographs - both local pictures and images from across the country and around the world - to the readers of tomorrow's newspaper.

As you will see in this real-life case study, the work of the staff photographer on a daily newspaper is filled with uncertain hours and high stress levels. There are big rewards - a steady job, a reasonable salary and the satisfaction of seeing his or her name in photo credits — but the rewards are mixed with the challenge of a high stress job with uncertain hours.

Before we turn to the details of our case study of a specific daily newspaper - the Middletown Times Herald Record - let's look into the basic organization of a typical newspaper.

Newspaper Organization.

A typical large daily newspaper has a structure such as that shown on the accompanying chart. While the names will vary from paper to paper, the line of command starts with the publisher. There are various departments such as circulation and advertising that usually don't have direct relations with the photographers. The line of command that generally controls the activities of the paper's photographers flows through the editor and managing editor to the city desk, the assignment desk, and usually the photo editor or chief photographer.

The assignment desk is usually the point in a newspaper's organization where picture requirements are sifted and passed on to appropriate staff members. Where do they get their photos from?

Where Do Newspapers Get Their Photos?

First, newspapers usually have some staff photographers -their own full-time employees who are sent out on assignment to shoot the necessary pictures.

Second, newspapers usually have a working relationship with freelancers they can call upon when they cannot get a staff photographer to an event. Freelancers who have a regular working relationship with the paper are called stringers. They will be contacted first if the paper has more assignments than the staffers on duty can handle. If a photo assignment requires travel to an outlying area, the paper will try to call a stringer who lives in that region.

Third, newspapers sometimes print photos taken by independent freelancers who contact the paper and offer to sell photos that they took on speculation. (Earlier, we discussed how you can get your start in photojournalism this way.)

Fourth, newspapers usually have an extensive library of file photos to use if they ever need them. This library is often referred to as the "morgue." For example, if a prominent citizen dies, they will usually have his or her photo in the morgue ready for use in an obituary.

Fifth, most newspapers subscribe to a wire service that transmits to them photos and articles relating to national and international events. In the U.S. the most prominent wire service is the Associated Press. Other well-known wire services include Reuters and Tass. Today wire services transmit their photos and articles electronically, via satellite. They are still called "wire services," however, because until recently they transmitted news stories and photographs over telegraph and telephone wires. Later in this lesson we'll look at the largest wire service. Associated Press (AP), in detail. We'll show how AP uses satellite transmission to speed the big news photos of the day to newspapers all over the world.

Sixth, newspapers may print photographs sold to them by picture agencies, formerly called "syndicates." These picture agencies usually have a relationship with a core group of photographers, but also offer the work of their own stringers and of independent freelancers. If a photo is used by a newspaper or magazine, the photographer is usually paid a commission. Some of the best known picture agencies are Magnum, Black Star, and SIPA. News magazines draw heavily on the services of the picture agencies, while newspapers are more likely to rely on AP.

Seventh, some photographs are donated to the paper by interested parties. A grieving family may supply a snapshot of a murder victim. Certain types of photos will be supplied with press releases from area organizations seeking to get publicity for their group. Some small papers will let local groups borrow a camera to photograph events that aren't significant enough to warrant assigning a staff photographer or hiring a stringer. The group will then return the camera and film to the paper, which will process the film and may use one or more of the photographs.

editorial writers news columnists editorial writers news columnists

Circulation Manager business manager advertising director business manager advertising director mechanical superintendents mechanical superintendents spcWs editor art director retouchers news editor make-up editor promotion department city editor financial editor society editor feature editor columnists drama editor

picture editor syndicated picture services freelance photographers wire services editor wire service photo editor assignment editor chief photographer photographers freelance photographers staff reporters

How Are Photographs Assigned?

The Assignment Editor usually passes on to the Photo Editor (who may be called the "Photo Chief' or "Chief Photographer") the list of the local news stories and features that will need pictures. The Photo Chiefs job is to get those pictures shot -typically by assigning them to staff photographers.

The Photo Chief knows the particular strengths and weaknesses of each member of the staff. Where possible, he will match the assignment to the strength of the staffer. For example, a staffer may be assigned to a particular neighborhood because he (or she) is well-known and well-liked there. He may be close to the police or fire fighters in the neighborhood. He may know many of the local storekeepers, business owners, and residents. Because of this familiarity, he is able to roam around freely and often gets tips from local residents. If the photographer is regarded as a friend rather than an intruder, help is more likely to be forthcoming.

Still, the Chief often has to assign photographers on an "as-available" basis. This means that the "best" photographer for a given assignment is frequently not available. He may be off that day, or may be on another assignment. Especially with fast-breaking news stories, the Chief doesn't have time to wait. So he assigns some other staff photographer to cover the event — often the photographer who happens to be nearest to it and can get to it fastest.

As you will read in our case study, most assignments do not involve fast-breaking news and can be doled out by the Chief a day or more in advance. A staff photographer often handles six or more assignments in an average day. This means that he can allot around twenty minutes or half an hour to the average assignment, allowing for travel time between assignments. For example, a staff photographer may be assigned to cover a 9 a.m. press conference, a new shipment at a local antique store at 10, a heated labor negotiation across town at 11, a protest demonstration at 1, a kindergarten show at 2, the mayor presenting an award to a firefighter at 3, and a candidate for Town Council kissing a baby at 4. There may also be a spot-news job or two to squeeze into the schedule. It's all in a day's work.

As a rule, smaller papers have a simpler organizational structure than we've shown in the chart, and large papers may have an even more complicated chain-of-command. You'll find it is easy to learn the structure of your local newspaper's hierarchy by reading the list of editors that generally runs on the paper's Editorial Page. If you need to learn more, call the paper and ask.

Types Of Newspapers.

Newspapers are generally grouped into two types: broadsheets and tabloids. The distinction involves the size of the printed page.

A broadsheet newspaper has a large page size, roughly 14x22, and is folded in half in the middle of the front page. Most broadsheet papers are printed in several different sections and then assembled. The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, USA Today, Philadelphia Inquirer, and Los Angeles Times are examples of broadsheet papers.

Tabloid papers are smaller, generally 11x15 or so. Examples include the New York Daily News. National Enquirer, and Star. Because they frequently favor shorter stories and more photographs, they are often considered less serious newspapers. But today, given the high cost of printing and delivering newspapers, there are many excellent tabloid-size papers that feature good news coverage and boast prize-winning content.

Regardless of physical size, virtually all newspapers use photographs. The Wall Street Journal is the only well-known exception. It uses no photographs to illustrate its news stories, but will occasionally use a black-and-white drawing to illustrate an important person in the news. Otherwise, newspapers rely heavily on the power of photographs to bring the reader up close to the day's news.

Well look at newspaper structure in more detail in our case study of the Middletown Times Herald Record.

lints mark Ihf Record's nine bureau offices

A large newsstand may ofTer hundreds of magazines catering to dozens of different special interests. Powerful cover photographs is essential to attract the attention of browsers.

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