LAST UPDATE: 5:35pm (see below)
Since mid-June I’ve been the temporary Deputy Director of Photography. I’ll update this post throughout the day, hopefully every hour, detailing what a typical shift is like.
I arrive to an empty department. Al Hartmann, our early guy, has already been working for two hours. He drove up to Ogden for an early shot (I’m going to have to keep some details fuzzy until I can talk about what we’re working on in certain cases).
First thing to check is Twitter, to see what’s going on in Utah this morning. Nothing at this point. I check to see if any new assignments came in since I looked last night (they didn’t) and write up a quick list of what we’re doing for the AM Budget, a list of stories that we’re working on throughout the newsroom. While I do this, I’m watching a polygamy documentary on YouTube in a separate window and listening to a podcast about videogames on my iPhone. Here’s what our day looks like so far (sorry, I’ve blocked out the details so I don’t get fired):
At the top of the calendar I’ve got two photographers on vacation, which puts a pinch on what we can cover. Also, someone is off. Okay, it’s Director of Photography Jeremy Harmon. It’s his first day off after ten straight days on, including an all-nighter Sunday night when the town of Herriman nearly burned to the ground.
Also on the calendar, the long bars are the photographers’ shifts. We’ve got six shooters today. Their assignments are the smaller blocks of time, all color-coded to each shooter. The two pink assignments around 6pm are unassigned. At this point I have no idea what I’m going to do about covering either of those. We’ve still got some open periods of time on some of the shifts. These will fill in after the morning meeting or as news breaks.
Now I’ve got to get ready for the ten o’clock meeting, where all the editors get together and we review our plans for the day…
11am– I’ll have to write quicker. Things are picking up. Here’s the meeting in brief:
An editor goes over the stats from the website and a list of the top 50 stories online.
We go through today’s newspaper, pointing out things we like and things to follow up on.
Oh boy, I don’t know what I can get away with here. Don’t want to get in trouble.
Oh, calling me out? Let’s move on to something else that might be a little safer…
Next we look over the competition’s paper. There was great relief to read this phrase on their front page:
“This is the final installment of a series of articles on pornography and its impact on families.”
And then someone said this, referring to another story from the competition, “This is the worst story I have ever read.”
I mentioned that the arty headline over the fallen soldier photo seemed a poor choice.
Well, we praised a couple things they did as well, but I wonder how bad things will look in December when the people they’ve laid off are let go. Enough of that.
Then everyone goes through what we’re working on. The editors are sharp. And I never thought I would say this, but I’m realizing how I’m actually starting to enjoy these meetings. It’s pretty cool to have what’s coming up distilled by smart people.
The outcome of the meeting photo-wise is that there is one big story that is loose photo-wise. I need to track down the reporter and see where we’re at. Apparently we’re still trying to track down the subject…
Noon – News breaks over Twitter a few minutes ago- Actress Lindsay Lohan taken to jail in handcuffs.
One big change in the editing situation from several years ago is that we’re much more focused on local stories now. Going into the afternoon meeting each day I’ve got to have photo options for the front page as well as the Utah page. Before, national stories were more likely to be on A-1 photo-wise.
Back in the day I was also able to look at every photograph that moved over the wire. Today there are so many photographs moving on a daily basis that it seems impossible to look at them all when you’re the only editor on duty. I do what I can, but for a variety of reasons it’s rare that I see everything. Some days I’m so busy with local things that I don’t see much of the wire at all.
I just got a call from the food editor. This really sucks. An assignment just came in for this afternoon at one of the top local sushi restaurants. It doesn’t suck that it just came in. It sucks that I’ve got no shot at shooting it. I’m starving.
It’s now noon and only one other photo staffer has been in the office. She filled out her expenses and vanished.
Someone just came over to ask if we wanted to shoot an assignment involving zombies. Of course. We will always shoot zombies.
Off to lunch.
2pm – I forgot to pull the photos Sports wanted to look at for tomorrow’s centerpiece. By the time I remember and walk over to the Sports department, breaking news had changed the plan. The Jazz could be trading Andrei Kirilenko in a four-team deal. The printouts in my hand are possibly irrelevant now. We start searching for shots of Andrei. If he’s traded, it will definitely be the main Sports story.
The Internet in the office has been down for about an hour. I’m working off my Mi-Fi for now. Everything still slow and not working entirely correct. Not having fast Net makes just about everything with photos a hassle.
Checking in with some reporters, I find cops reporter Lindsay Whitehurst (above) listening to four police scanners at once. She’s the only one in right now. Talk about surround sound.
2:20pm – I check in with a couple people to see where we’re at and we settle on a plan that’s a little risky. We decide to put an assignment that will be shot late tonight into the centerpiece slot on A-1. It’s got great possibilities but the shot won’t come in until late, maybe 9pm. If it doesn’t work out we’ll be sitting on nothing, right at deadline. Still, we decide to do it.
2:25 – Now we’ve decided to not do it. We’ve got another story that we’re moving over into the A-1 centerpiece slot. That way we won’t be under as much pressure.
Four photographers in the department now. Two late people arriving, two early people editing.
We’ve got a really cool option for the Kirilenko photo. It’s a little different. I’m going to go pitch it to the sports editor…
2:45 – Internet still down. To view photos in our system I have to be logged into our work wifi network. To do anything online I have to switch to the MiFi. Very frustrating. I should use this as an excuse to go out into the mall and buy some kind of sugar. Maybe some of those crazy Baker Mills cookies.
2:50 – Wiping, I mean scratching chile verde off my computer.
3:00 – “Shots fired in West Valley City, cops surrounding a house,” says an editor. We send a photographer out with no further information. As he’s driving in the general direction, I’m handed the address by a reporter wearing a camouflage bullet-proof vest. I text it to the photographer, who replies, “10-4.”
3:55 – The Big Daily Meeting in five minutes. Internet still screwed. I’ve only got a few photos to work with, but not everything I need. As usual, we’ll see how it goes, or if it goes. I still have two assignments around 6pm with no shooters for them. About to have to make phone calls and/or tough decisions.
I forgot to post this – this is the kind of weak selection of treats (above) that you have at the end of the work week. All of the good (meaning: unhealthy) stuff has already been sold out. Come Sunday it’s always a very grim Situation™.
4pm – Meeting… I’ll have to write that in a minute… too much going on at once. got to hand out photos, work on layouts, and then hand out tomorrow’s assignments…
5:30pm – Hard to know which way is up at this point. Most of tomorrow is assigned out. The two “unassignments” for tonight remain unassigned. Had to shift one assignment since a photographer is still out at what is now a police standoff in West Valley.
Sent another photographer out on an assignment with a handwritten assignment sheet earlier when the Internet was down. Handwritten assignment. It was like we were in the 1980s again. I handed him the sheet with a bunch of scribbled writing and he looked offended, asking, “What? Is this how we’re doing things now?” I told him the Internet was down.
Okay, back to whatever it is…