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February 26th, 2009

Photo assignments from bloggers: new model or same old problems? 4

Posted by Alan Chin

Just before the 2008 Democratic National Convention, Michael Shaw asked photojournalist Alan Chin to cover the event for his BAGnewsNotes blog. Despite his plans to go to Georgia, Alan had worked with BAGnewsNotes before and decided to take the assignment. As he discusses here, it was a learning process for the whole team. Check back next week when Michael talks about the difficulty of getting outside the political media bubble.

Here and below: Alan's images from the floor of the DNC. © Alan Chin

At the DNC, typically we would talk in the morning. Michael was there with his son, who works for Talking Points Memo, so the two of them were in what’s called the big tent, which is the press tent for bloggers. They were live-blogging the event and keeping an eye on everything going on, and they would text or call if they saw something I should cover. I would do the same for them. In the morning we would discuss things on the calendar, and I would spend the day doing those things. It meant not sleeping a lot because the big speakers were in the evening. We were working from 9am to midnight. We would meet in the evening and discuss how to we were going to put everything up on the site.

Basically I said to Michael, I trust you as an editor. It’s your site. If I file a picture to you, it means I’m willing to have you use it. Obviously you can’t file every picture. And actually I think it was a real learning experience for him as an editor. Because at the beginning he was using every picture I sent him. And I said, you don’t have to do that. Nor do I think we’re serving ourselves well by doing that. If we do four pictures or three pictures or one picture, sometimes it’s a lot more powerful than doing a 15- or 20-picture slideshow. So we talked about that a lot, and he got more comfortable being a kind of editor. And of course he’s wearing so many hats at once and ideally he would have a bigger team; there would be someone who’s thinking about aesthetics, someone else doing analysis, someone else doing really technical stuff — and then at that point you really are getting to be like the New York Times. You’re really starting to emulate how traditional media works.

Be Part of the RESOLUTION: Do you think editing images for a blog requires a significantly different strategy than when editing for a traditional publication? What are your favorite blogs that use images in interesing ways?

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