GloucesterTimes.com, Gloucester, MA

December 29, 2012

Why DId My Newspaper Do That? When photos tell stories as well as words

Why Did My Newspaper Do That?
Ray Lamont

---- — The year-end holiday week — that stretch of seven days that falls each year between Christmas and New Year’s — always poses some unique challenges in news coverage.

It is, after all, a week in which schools are out, many people are on vacation, and when city and town officials rarely, if ever, schedule any municipal meetings. And it is generally a time in which, if all goes well, little or virtually nothing happens as we all rest up and prepare to transition into a new year.

In many ways, that can makes it difficult when it comes to covering local news. Yet it also presents us here at the Times with some unique coverage opportunities — the chance to present perhaps fewer “hard news” local stories, and give some additional coverage to other issues and events that we can’t always present at other times.

To that end, our Living pages and pages inside the Times this week have featured a variety of different stories, presented in many cases in a unique format as well. Those have included coverage, in Thursday’s paper alone, of a Poet’s Tea at the Manchester Public Library, on Page 2, and a full-page package on the art of fish printing that appeared on Page 10. Then, Friday’s Living page featured a package on the fine art of beading making, featuring the works of Gloucester artist Bruce Ware.

Each of these presentations, of course, could also have included a lengthy story with a few photos. But in each of these cases, the pages were packaged with more photos than word paragraphs.

Why take that approach? Couldn’t we have written more in depth about Ware and his art of beadmaking, for example? Why, you might ask, would your community’s newspaper do that?

Because I honestly believe that there are many stories that can best be presented in photos than told laboriously in words — and these stories and events are among them.

Ware’s beading, for example, is much better shown, understood and appreciated when viewed through the art of our own photo chief, Allegra Boverman. While Allegra has reporting experience, and often crafts short stories as part of her growing number of photojournalist projects, her own photos generally tell a better story than any words.

The result is a package that shows our readers, rather than just telling them, about a particular event or local program. And I’ve always believed that, in some stories, that drives home the point better than ever.

The use of multiple photos to show as well as tell a story is hardly limited, of course, to feature stories. The same premise holds true for news stories, like staff writer Marjorie Nesin’s coverage of Thursday’s storm, illustrated with photos by Allegra and Times photo correspondent Desi Smith.

Indeed, while Marje’s news story spotlighted the number of power outages and other aspects of the storm’s impact, including wind damage to a house on Fort Square, Desi’s photos, especially, captured the trauma faced by residents of Commercial Street and East Gloucester’s Wise Place, where one man watched water rushing up to his house from a second-floor window, and others dealt with 2-3 inches of water in their front room.

An old adage has always told us that a picture is worth 1,000 words. And I’ve often subscribed to that notion when it comes to news coverage as well.

As always, let me know what you think.

Questions? Comments? Is there an issue you’d like to see addressed in a future column? Contact Times Editor Ray Lamont at 978-283-7000, x3438, or at rlamont@gloucestertimes.com.