Ask The Photo Editor
July 13, 2006 11:33 AM   Subscribe

Ever Wonder How Newspapers Decide Which Photos to Print? NYT Online's Talk to the Newsroom has a question and answer session with the Assistant Managing Editor for Photography, Michele McNally. She addresses a few of the more common questions many people have about how editorial decisions are made in regards to which photographs get published, and which don't among other topics.
posted by stagewhisper (13 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Excellent session. Ta for the link.
posted by davebushe at 12:03 PM on July 13, 2006

Very cool. It's something I sort of wish I'd had around a couple of years ago when I was working as managing editor of my college paper, and was continually at odds with the photo editor about whether we were including too many stories without pictures, or too many two-page photo spreads with no story. The line "I believe that words and pictures combined together are better than either alone." is something that probably ought to be put up on a banner in the office there.
posted by Godbert at 12:09 PM on July 13, 2006

Actually, I figure everything in the newspaper is there because that's where "eenie meenie miney moe" stopped.
posted by telstar at 12:13 PM on July 13, 2006

Brings to mind this hoo-ha (though strictly speaking, it's the captioning that's the issue)
posted by anthill at 12:18 PM on July 13, 2006

She kind of dodged the question about the president agressively staging photograph moments. She said "We spoke about the "presidential stagecraft" in this story." The linked story is 1500 words long and a whole 12* of them are about this concern. Weak answer.

* "The Bush White House, well practiced in the art of presidential stagecraft,"
posted by raedyn at 12:42 PM on July 13, 2006

The slideshow of her most memorable pictures from the last couple years is pretty good.
posted by marxchivist at 1:02 PM on July 13, 2006

I worked at a paper. The Page 1 photos were chosen with care. The farther back you got in the paper, and depending on how close to deadline we were, sometimes it was just nice to find a shot that fit the space without chopping anyone's head off.

I also fondly remember some of the edicts that came down from higher-ups about which photos to use or not use. For example, "no photos of people giving press conferences." (I know it's not compelling art. But, uh, what photo should we use with this worthless story about someone giving a press conference?)

There was also a rash of photographs of women's footwear, which gave rise to some speculation about the fetishes of a certain editor.

Probably the most frustrating part regarding photos was a color deadline that often came early in the evening. So we would have to pick a photo, place it on the page and set it in stone before the story was even finished in some cases.

In short, with photo selections, sometimes there are carefully reasoned decisions and sometimes there are monkeys frantically slapping pages together to comply with edicts and make deadline.
posted by veggieboy at 1:37 PM on July 13, 2006

Great article about a job I didn't know existed.

You are prohibited from shooting bridges and tunnels, less so the subway.

Is this true in the states? She says a little farther down that it applies to select bridges as posted.
posted by Mitheral at 1:49 PM on July 13, 2006

Another thing she dodged was the complaint about pictures being "out of register" - it galls me to no end that my local rags often look better than the Gray Lady's hangover-vision.
posted by djb at 2:04 PM on July 13, 2006

Very interesting that Ms. McNally is not a photographer, but majored in communications.
posted by Cranberry at 2:08 PM on July 13, 2006

veggieboy, I currently work as a graphic editor at a national newspaper, and before my current job here I was a freelancer who optimized and retouched/color corrected all of the images that went to print. I agree with some of the bizarre randomness that happens as you're about to reach deadline and suddenly there's space to fill because of editing changes to an article or whatnot. I found this link interesting because it seems that the NYT (which a subscribe to) and my own paper (uh, no) differ in some ways- we often appear to be more driven by an overall message than the Times. I'll bet the randomness is, well, randomly different at the NY Post, and at the Daily News as well. I found your comment highly entertaining!

the out of register thing occurs at the printing plants. The NYT seems to often have problems with this- the issue is that once things go out of alignment (it's a mechanical issue, not a production/ prepress one) it's impossible to immediately stop the run- so some large batches of bad pages still get sent through before the problem is corrected. Depending on where the papers are printed and at what point of the process, the same image/page will look better in a paper from one news stand than it will from another.
posted by stagewhisper at 2:32 PM on July 13, 2006

ugh! I meant, I *agree* with you about the randomness, and I also meant to say *I* subscribe to the NYT. sheesh. Good thing I'm not an editor who works with words instead of images.
posted by stagewhisper at 2:40 PM on July 13, 2006

Related: BAGnewsNotes is "progressive blog dedicated to the discussion and analysis of news images." is a weblog about newspaper design.
posted by kirkaracha at 2:59 PM on July 13, 2006 [1 favorite]

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