Short answer: Get a camera.
I'm not being smartass or glib here. Honestly. But you just cannot put out a well-rounded news publication -- either print or online, which we'll discuss in a moment -- without shooting your own photos.
You don't even have to employ a full-time staff photographer. Anybody can shoot decent photos with the new generation of digital cameras, which cost as little as $100. And if your publisher can't cough up $100 for a camera, he's too cheap to deserve a good paper.
Sorry. But that's like asking "How can we have a good rock band without a drummer?" Well -- it's possible, maybe, if you have great guitarists and keyboards to compensate. But it's doubtful. You could use great typography and great writing to compensate for a lack of photos, yes -- which, to some degree, describes The Wall Street Journal. But the Journal is a specialized publication about the cold, impersonal world of finance. YOUR paper, on the other hand, needs to capture the warmth and personality of life in your town. Which is what photos do.
Ninety-nine percent of all newspapers -- professional and student -- take their own photos. The other one percent are dull and uninviting, and there's no way around it. Handout photos of teams, award ceremonies and ribbon-cuttings are the lowest form of photojournalism; their lifeless sameness sucks the personality right out of your newspaper.
Now, it's becoming increasingly popular to ask readers to submit their own photos on your Web site. That's a terrific way to let everyone participate and enhance what you're newsroom is doing. But it's no substitute.
And, of course, we haven't even mentioned video. With each passing day, online audiences become more and more accustomed to multimedia news presentations. If there's a fire downtown tomorrow, your Web visitors will expect not just photos, but video footage, as well. And if you can't provide it, someone else will soon come along and eat your lunch.
Sorry. But you asked. Buy a camera. Or use your own. Either way, you've got to start giving your readers the visual news coverage they expect.
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