Where’s First Draft?First Draft by Tim Porter, my blog on quality journalism, is archived here.
Buy My Book
Organic Marin, Recipes from Land to Table: Photographs, stories and recipes from organic farmers of Marin County and the restaurants that support them. Buy it here from Amazon.
My Art, Your Walls
TagsBaseball Brad Will Buck Institute Canal Canal Alliance College of Marin D3 David Hobby David Pogue Digital Journalist Fairfax Fran Ortiz Golden Gate Bridge Joe McNally Journalism Larkspur Magnum Marin Marin County Marin General Hospital Marin Magazine Mary Ellen Mark Mexico Mill Valley Newspapers New York New York Times Nikon Novato Oaxaca Open studios Organic Marin Photography Photojournalism Point Reyes Station Salon San Francisco San Rafael Sausalito SB800 Scott Kelby Strobist The Image Flow Tiburon West Marin
Tag Archives: Newspapers
* Readers Come, Money Doesn’t: Newspaper web readership is up 12% year over year (although web revenue is down). Nieman Journalism Lab lists its Top 15 newspaper sites. My hometown Chron (SFGate) averages 4.1 million uniques a month, up 10%. Somehow, there’s got to be a business in there.
* Ready the Tombstones: Former S.F. Examiner colleague and Salon pioneer Gary Kamiya concludes: “If newspapers die, so does reporting.” And, in light of the web revenue report, he adds: “Currently there is no business model that makes online reporting financially viable.” (Mutter mines the same vein.)
* Cancel the Funeral: Steve Yelvington says he just has “to call bullshit on the “Newspapers Are Dead” meme. Some numbers:
“In spite of the worst economy since Roosevelt, many U.S. newspapers are still turning profits in the 15-20 percent range, and the U.S. newspaper industry is still turning around 50 billion dollars of gross revenue every year.”
* Cue the Elegy: Joe Mathews mourns for the L.A. Times of old in the New Republic, lamenting, among many things, the loss of local stories that “show deep digging.” (Andrew Cline calls BS on him, saying: “Nostalgia is dead. It’s time to discover or create the next venue for journalism.”
(Note: This is a note to my friend Michele McLellan responding to her Facebook post about newspapers outsourcing copyediting tasks.)
As you know, I’ve pretty much stayed out of the “whither journalism” lately, but I’ll add a thought or two to your well-reasoned argument based on my personal experiences of the last two years.
First, I’ve been doing a lot of work for a glossy, local lifestyle magazine here in the Bay Area. I do a lot of photography, I also write and edit. Most of the magazine comes together from people who don’t work in the same place — the editor has an office, freelancers write, I edit them, a copy editor in another place edits me, a designer in the office sends me Adobe InDesign files or PDFs for proofing. Works well. Every two weeks we meet for story planning and idea exchange.
Also, last year I wrote and photographed a book (touted all over my FB page). My partner — a chef — wrote her parts from her office, I wrote my sections from mine, the designer emailed around concepts and pages. We all rarely met. Book came out, is doing well. Of course, you and I did the same thing the year before.
Finally, to underwrite such rewarding, but hardly remunerative pursuits as magazine photography and cookbook writing, I keep a hand in editing research for financial institutions. I work with a team of a half-dozen analysts in
Newsrooms traditionalists might argue that proximity contributes to quality. They are wrong. The prodigious amount of so-so writing and editing seen in many newspapers is testament to that. Commitment to excellence, responsibility and, most importantly these days, personal growth lead to quality – and those values are highly portable.
First the doors came off newspapers, then the walls blew out. In the next couple of years, we’ll see the floors drop away. Knowledge work – which is what journalism consists of, i.e., literary and creative skill applied to principles of public information, access and transparency – doesn’t need an address. It just needs a platform.
* From Staffer to Freelance: John Harrington, who writes the Photo Business News blog, points out that all the layoffs in the newspaper business are going to swell the ranks of freelance photographers. He wrote it a while back, but still worth a read.
* More Cuts on the Way: Alan Mutter, former editor and now chronicler of a declining industry, sees more down-sizing ahead “if the industry is to sustain its traditional operating margin,” which, by the way, is still more than 18 percent.
* Silencing the Inner Curmudgeon: When your world is collapsing around you, as it is for many staff photojournalists, it’s easy to let the anger rise and the bile fly. But that doesn’t help you find more work, or learn new skills, or fuel the energy and creativity you’ll need to keep working as a photographer. (I know; I’ve been there on all sides.) If you feel the curmudgeon stirring inside, read Jay Rosen’s post on how to deal with the beast.
* Photoshop, Ethics and the PJ: In my magazine work, I set up a lot of pictures, meaning I arrange the people and control the light in a way pure photojournalists don’t. I also Photoshop the pixels out of an image if I think it makes it snap more. How much of this type or post-shot manipulation has been debated in the PJ community ever since someone first burned the edges of a print. Here’s a good discussion about the topic on SportsShooter, sparked by this original rant and this young photographer’s portfolio.
* This Washington Post gallery of the election in Zimbabwe (10 sec. ad). No. 8 in the gallery is show in this post.
* Correy Perrine of the Nashuah (N.H.) Telegraph shows you can make an extraordinary photograph at an ordinary event such as a teachers’ protest.
*Another good use of small strobes on assignment, an author in a jail cell by Ken Ritchie of the Madison Courier.
Welcome to Second Draft.
At the time, the newspaper industry was in the tank, newsrooms were laying off and I was finishing a transition from a manager of institutional journalism to a doer of personal journalism (and other creative endeavors). Just as the news industry was undergoing reinvention, so was I.
Today, the newspaper industry is still in the tank, newsrooms are still laying off and I’ve returned to the humbler roots I planted when I left college. My business card now reads, simply, Tim Porter, Photographer & Writer.
The switch was not the leap you might think it was. My first job in journalism was as a photographer, first for the now defunct UPI in San Francisco and next for a small newspaper. I began reporting so I could better sell my photo stories to the paper’s skeptical city editor. Then, a few years later, ambition got the best of me and I jumped into management.
I blogged about newspaper journalism, management and innovation for nearly four years at First Draft, a process a pretty smart professor once called my re-education — “Tim Porter started journalism school the day he left the newsroom.”
He was right — and some day I may tease out the steps of that learning in a longer piece. But not here. Second Draft will be more personal, more about my freelance life in both photography and writing. If that sounds too narrow to you, thanks for dropping by. But I can promise you my world of creativity, media, technology and, at times, journalism is much larger than it ever was.
I’ve moved into a post-institutional media world that in some ways resembles my early days as a freelancer while in college (the lack of guaranteed pay, for example), but I’ve arrived with a lifetime of skill and, more importantly, the ability to learn new ones when necessary or desired. I’ve learned how to learn — and am quite good at it.
Many of the new tricks this old dog has acquired are applicable to those just starting out in journalism — adaptability, resiliency, just-in-time learning — and in those you may find some value.
I will write a lot about photography, my first love and my first newsroom paycheck. I do a lot of magazine and commercial work (here’s my portfolio) and find that the tools of personal connection that served me well as a reporter and manager are just as handy in the studio or on location.
I will write about reporting, too, because I can’t stop wanting to tell stories even though writing is an anxiety frought experience for me. (I like to quip that I like having written).
I will write about technology because it is the tool we all use in the digital age.
And, I will write about journalism because I still believe it’s important and perhaps more than ever in a world where our most systemic, intractable social ills fight for scant attention among a populace intoxicated by media intended to mesmerize but not illuminate.