Managers have to be ready to Eat Their Young
At times during the day I’ve found myself pacing from room to room with no apparent destination. My daily routine disrupted and foreign to what I’ve known for the past thirty-seven years growing up in newsrooms.
The last two household boxes are all that remain and the daily process of unemployment, cobra and paperwork for the movers has slowed.
The kids are gone with the youngest graduating from college at the end of May. The eldest has just purchased their first home north of New York, just in time to give mom and dad a place to stay while seeking out a new direction and hopeful employment.
Uncertainty is the norm in the newspaper industry at a time where a lay-off colleague noted “There are more of us on the outside than the inside anymore.” It’s sad that we can coin-the-phrase ‘lay-off colleague”.
Fear of the future prevails in the newsroom and managers have to be ready to eat their young.
The light wind is blowing the curtain over the chair commanding my attention much longer than it should, offering a reason to look to the past with appreciation, and with a combination of excitement and fear to the future.
I started as a newspaper photographer at a time void of corporate liability concerns. It was a time when you could hang out with the local small town newspaper photographer on their night shifts. Watching them work a room; create images; and see the satisfaction in their eyes when the black and white prints formed in the developer.
The camera store kid who one Friday afternoon in 1974 was walked into the Redding, Record-Searchlight; shown where the Saturday assignment hook was; given a key to the front door and told “not to screw up!”.
After a few years on staff; following a love of travel and nature photography; opening a photography studio; and getting married somewhere in there; I was back at the newspaper in 1977 for the next eleven years.
“No one really cares about this!. It’s too depressing” The images were tossed to the edge of the table as the editor walked back into the newsroom.
I was crushed; I had worked on the homeless project using my own time for two months in 1988. I worked the shelters, parks and encampments along the tracks. Did he miss the part about having the knife pulled on me? Did he not see the pain, loneliness in their eyes?
It was the realization that to bring change to a newsroom; photographers needed a voice in the newsroom. For some strange and delusional reason I needed to be the voice. It was the start of a twenty-one year photo editing career with a path through Salem, Des Moines, San Bernardino and Riverside.
Blessed with talented photographers at each stop and editors who took the time to answer questions and guide me over the bumps like Jim Vestal, Paul Whyte, Bob Lynn, J. Bruce Bauman and Scott Sines I was able to avoid many of the landmines that came with directing a photography department.
Yes, the changes in our industry are monumental but it will be the love of our craft and the understanding that photojournalism, on all levels, has the ability to change lives.
I’m reminded of a photo assignment early in my career of an elderly woman who was bound to a wheelchair. As we went into the kitchen I noticed one of my photographs of Mount Lassen taped to her refrigerator door, “That’s my window.” she noted pointing to the photograph.
A simple reminder, that no matter the vehicle we choose to deliver our images, the impact to the public remains the same.