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You know what newspapers do best? Two things: teaching and storytelling. In a way, that’s our sacred mission -- giving people data they need to lead better lives, and capturing the drama of life in the 21st century. Teaching and storytelling. Data and drama. Good teaching conveys data; good storytelling conveys drama.
Keep those words in mind as you thumb through a newspaper. A photo of some guy holding a trophy teaches us nothing. It tells no story. A photo of that same guy doing the thing that earned him the award — helping the children, building the park — would convey more data and drama. It would be an immeasurably superior image.
Look at the photo above. Why is it a classic? Consider all the data it contains: the who, the what, the where, the how. Now consider the drama it contains: an actual murder, occurring right before your eyes.
Apply this same standard to every photo in your newspaper. You’ll realize that’s why those grip-and-grin photos are so journalistically weak: Those awkward-looking people could be anybody anywhere. Only their families and friends will care about those photos; the other 99% of us will turn the page, looking for real news.
Always search for the true photograph behind every story — the real activity, not the phony ceremony. And if your editor insists on running “cheese” photos anyway, consider creating a cheese page to house all those trophy-clutching grip-and-grins. That way, you can keep your news separate from your cheese.
At the Bainbridge Island Review, this page gives local award-winners their moment of glory -- and gives the paper a home for random grip-and-grin photos.