Thinking Visually

Convener:  Andrea Nemitz


  • John Christofferson
  • Adam Gorlick
  • Rick Spratling
  • Greg Rec
  • Jack Coleman
  • Judy Kessler
  • Dave Offer
  • Geoff Gevalt
  • Ed Bell
  • Mike Connelly
  • Glenn Jordan


Geoff:  Burlington had a great experience with visual journalists leading the way on some of their 911 coverage.  One idea was a cover page with the Trade Center buildings burning and names of all the victims printed over the images. The other idea began with photos of people affected by 911 and their stories in their own words.  The paper got a great response and he said the result was a bigger voice in the newsroom for visual journalists.

Dave:  Is convinced that the model of reporters/photographers together at interviews doesn’t always work.  (Not always catching subject doing his/her real work, etc., at that time.)  But seems that photographer setting his/her own sked is impractical. What to do?

Greg (a photographer):  He tries to go at the beginning or end of the interview, and to be flexible on when the assignment is shot.  He also urges that editors be flexible, if the story isn’t breaking news, and hold the story for better visuals.

Greg:  On reporters thinking visually… he tries to cultivate relationships with visually minded photographers.  He also tries to educate others to be more visual, and preaches photo ethics, what he’s looking for in photos.

Ed:  Problem is at some meetings the only one at the meeting thinking visually is the photo editor.

Andrea:  Important for photo editors to educate others at the meetings about why photos “work.”  Speak to “word people” in their own language, or explain to them why certain parts of a photo are important – body language, lighting, news value, emotion, etc.  Put it into words, don’t just say it’s a “great” photo.

Jack:  Sometimes it helps if a reporter can take photos.  He cited a case where an old woman in a wheelchair, breathing through tubes, was at a meeting facing kids in school uniforms who were lobbying for her land to become part of a school athletic facility. No photographer was there, but a reporter could have tried to make a photo.

Rick:  Found he succeeded most when he wrote prose that didn’t need to be illustrated.  Thinking visually leads to a “tapestry,” he says. He mentioned a story he reported in Florida when he was riding with a sheriff after (I think) a flood.  He described the “thump” of the truck running over snakes – great “visual” reporting…

Greg:  Send editors to a visual conference to help them think more visually. We live in a visual world. It’s the job of the photographer to make his/her photos storytelling.

Geoff:  Thinks holding a story causes us to lose a sense of urgency. He thinks this is a sign that the system isn’t working.

Andrea and Dave:  Wonder if we’ve gotten to the heart of the story if the action hasn’t happened yet.  Should we create drafts of stories more often and pass them on to photographers?

Geoff:  Is thinking of abolishing photo slips so people will talk more.

Greg:  Some people will never think visually. Communication is the key.

Mike:  Thinks we should spend more time going over tearsheets to see what worked, what didn’t and why.  Use our work to educate people.

Also discussed, briefly, when to use a graphic. (Good sign is when people in news meetings start asking questions…) Mike uses graphics to help unload stats, etc., from stories. Especially good to train young reporters on this.

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