I posted a note here earlier this week encouraging a photographer to defect to the word side as a way of helping teach editors about picture usage. And it set me thinking about an occasionally visited topic on the list: respect.
We often complain that we photographers are not taken seriously in the newsroom. Would you consider for a moment that we create a persona that makes it easy for us not to be taken seriously?
Here are a few suggestions (from a former photographer who now gets to watch the photographers from the other side of the room):
Be careful about what you put on paper. You are actually being evaluated on the cutlines, memos, evaluations, purchase requests, etc., that you write. So buy a dictionary and use the spell checker. Find a stylebook. Let a copy editor read your memos before you submit them. Write an occasional story to
prove that you are a “well-rounded” journalist. (Your writing is a BIG deal. The word people complain about bad cutlines, poor grammar, misspelled names and shady fact checking. The more polished your writing is, the more respect you are granted.)
Wear the uniform. Instead of jeans and hiking boots, change into pressed slacks and a long-sleeve shirt before the news meeting. Keep a tie and jacket on hand for when you will be in front of the publisher or mayor.
Modulate your voice. Photographers love to bitch. But a well-reasoned, quietly delivered argument goes much further.
Take a copy editor, city editor or features editor to lunch. And DON’T talk about newspapers or photography. Get to know these people. Let them see you as a person. Talk about your kids, hunting, the cabinets you built for the kitchen. Save any attempts to “educate” for the fifth, eighth or 10th
Be ahead of the game. Read the paper and read the wire budgets early in the day. Know what’s going on in the world so you can participate in newsroom and budget meeting discussions.
Be interested and involved in the process, but don’t micromanage. (This suggestion comes from a news editor friend of mine.) Attend the planning meetings and have your picture ideas ready. Propose stories. If an assignment is crap, be honest about it; BUT be ready to suggest something better. Offer alternatives at all stages of the process. (One sports editor says he wants more than one picture.) And make deadline.
Apologize when you’re wrong. Don’t try to explain bad decisions. Just say “I’m sorry, I screwed up,” and leave it at that.