The second day of the DC trip kept on trucking. We started off meeting with Andy Scott, Sports Editor at USA Today. We also met with several other great staffers there. Next we headed to Education Week to see Charlie Borst. Finally, we ended the night with dinner and photos with Louie Palu, Chip Somodevilla, and Brendan Hoffman.
At USA Today, there was again an emphasis on attention to detail for freelancers and staffers. Good grammar and over communication are two very important things. They said that, especially when dealing with PR, good grammar is essential. Over communication also solves so many problems. They would be much happier for shooters to ftp something and then follow up with a phone call or an email to confirm that the file was transferred. Detail was also important on location. Getting the names of everyone and everything involved is critical, including pets if they are important in a picture. They also said that it is really important to enjoy the people you are working with. If you work with miserable people, there is no point.
Probably the biggest point that I heard was confirmation of what I had come to realize within the past couple years. Why is more important than how. Sure, your camera, lenses, ISO and software knowledge are all important things, but if you don’t know why you are doing something, nothing really matters. You’ve got to know why you are doing something. This is especially critical in difficult times when you question why you are trying to keep going.
I got to sit right next to Andy Scott and Garrett Hubbard, Video Journalist for USA Today for lunch. Along with my fellow classmates on the trip, we all had some really great, honest conversations about life and photography and how it all works (sometimes) together.
Next off we went to Education Week.
Talking with Charlie Borst was incredible. To paraphrase, Mr. Borst said that Education Week was one of the best newspapers that you’ve never heard of. The publication is in a position quite different from so many other people. The publisher gets that good photography is really important. I noticed that Mr. Borst wasn’t talking about how his budget was constantly restricting him from doing things like so many other people talk about. He doesn’t give many assignments per issue, but the ones that are assigned are well thought out. It is expected that the photographer will spend time with the subject and bring back something great. It seemed that things were more relaxed, or, at the very least, there seemed to be some space for reflecting and truly thinking about stories. I wanted to know what their secret for success was. Part of it seemed to be the publisher who loved photography. Another part seemed to be that the publication was a must read for anyone in education. What major national newspaper is really a must read anymore? Education Week has paywalls that people seem more than willing to pay because there is a high value on the information and material that they provide. I’ll be thinking about how can I take some of these aspects and transfer it to other situations. I do not want to go into a business whose main goal is to just make it to tomorrow. I do not want to go into a business where the goal is how can we stretch ourselves even more with no manpower and no budget. I do want to work for a place that realizes that old methods no longer work and that radical changes need to be made. The thing is I’m not sure that Education Week is so radical in that sense. Have they really changed over the past few years? At least to the extent that everyone else has? I don’t think so.
I ended this visit with lots of excitement and encouragement that there are bright spots out there.
Finally, we had dinner with some Getty folks. We got to see Louie Palu, Chip Somodevilla, and Brendan Hoffman and hear them talk about their work. It was a lot of fun hearing about their projects and how they ended up where they are now in photography. Mr. Palu had lots to say about some of the things photographers don’t necessarily like to talk about. He had advice that his father gave him: The amount of money you keep is more important than the amount you make. He also talked about the importance of building an archive that will eventually help sustain you through good and bad financial times. It was also critical to be ready for things at a moment’s notice. A Bio, biz card, portfolio, notepad, etc are all important things to always have at the ready.
Tuesday was definitely another great day. Tomorrow is Nat Geo, AP, and AARP. I don’t think that’ll be too shabby either…