So much of my work recently has been chasing down leads about the disappearance and death of a 20-year-old woman, and then flipping through court files on the men accused of robbing and killing her. What I haven’t been doing has been taking photos.
The new media model is not the kind where someone gets to do only one thing and do it well. Specialization is OK, but in the fractured journalism today it’s good to have experience in print, in electronic reporting, and in online journalism. The fact that I can record and edit audio adds depth to my reporting. When the news about Krista Dittmeyer was breaking I was often accompanied by Jaime Gemmeti, the Sun’s photographer. He is fantastic, consistently giving us a visually strong front page to place stories around.
But durring the Dittmeyer extravaganza, while he was shooting stills I was recording video. We came back from the press conferences with video of the entire thing, which wound up getting more than 4,000 hits on Facebook. The same thing the day of the accused murderer’s arraignment: when the senior assistant attorney general made a statement we were ready. He got a great shot from a distance that captured the pack of reporters as well as the AG, and I caught the whole statement on video.
But the downfall of a fulltime photographer is I haven’t been picking up the camera enough. Jaime is great. He is a one-man photo department. His photos inspire people to pick up the paper. I certainly don’t want him to go anywhere, but I need to tap into that inspiration to pick up my camera more.
It’s funny, because I’ve been picking up the camera for more than 15 years. I know how to use it, but in a busy news day sometimes it just falls by the wayside. The story is more important to me, granted — I’d rather miss the photo than misquote someone. But there is something about the art of photography that is enthralling.
It’s actually the same thing that draws me to radio, and it’s very different than my experience with print. When I write a story I feel like I’m braiding together a rope. You can’t ever let go of any single strand for two long, otherwise you’ll lose its place. Instead each strand has to be intertwined with the others. There are ways to massage together imperfections, but overall it’s pretty formulaic.
Audio work and photography are different. They still both retain a bit of mystique, a bit of the art. They are more pliable, more what the practitioner makes of them.
It’s funny, because I don’t consider myself an artist, even when I’m working in those mediums. Print, radio, photo, they’re all just different ways to tell a story. I’ve said before I don’t consider myself a writer, I consider myself a reporter. If the audience gets my reporting through the written word that’s fine, but my ultimate goal was to inform them, and writing was simply the means.
But it’s a means I’m pretty accustomed to. Not that I’m fast at it, mind you, just that I’ve learned how to weave. I’m still improving my audio weaving, although Iraq helped it get a lot better. Photo, however, is less weaving, is less formulaic, and requires a bit more from me. That challenge is something I relish. After a bit too long watching someone else focus the Nikkor, it’s time for me to get back behind the glass.