Local papers were ahead of their times in photography trends

Published Jun 11, 2013 at 05:00AM

The Chicago Sun-Times laid off its entire 28-person photography staff, including Pulitzer Prize-winner John White, in late May. The newspaper said it plans to use freelance reporters and photographers.

Yes, times are changing, and business and technology are riding along. I have a personal story to add.

In the mid-1990s, The Bulletin developed a community-based news section and had freelance reporters in several local communities. I was assigned the Camp Sherman section and would submit local stories and photos with each story.

I am not suggesting that my reporting was in the class of the Chicago Sun-Times reporters or my photography that of the paper’s photographers. It is a local remembrance and story.

I remember John Costa giving a brief pep talk to the assembled freelance community reporters and Diane Kulpinski distributing several 36-shot Kodachrome cassettes to each person. I can still remember her words, “shoot lots of pictures” and we’ll pick out the best one for your story.

My first assignment was to cover the “Store” in Camp Sherman. If you have visited the “Store,” you know the overwhelming number of picture possibilities. I’m pretty sure I used at least one 36-shot film casette on that assignment.

About a year later, I was contacted by the Nugget newspaper in Sisters and asked if I would like to freelance with that paper. So, after about one year with The Bulletin, I began freelancing with the Nugget.

I ended up for the next several years freelancing only with the Nugget. Those were interesting transition times. At first, we used small (10-15 shot) black-and-white film cassettes and had them developed at the Sisters “Photos in a Flash” store (no longer in business). After development, the prints would be brought over to the Nugget office and a photo selection made for the story.

As an aside, I don’t think there are any photo stores operating in Central Oregon today. Times do change, and we have moved on from film to digital photography.

These were fun times working with Eric Dolson and Jim Cornelius and staff at the Nugget. Eric was publisher and a camera fan. He purchased one of the early Nikon digital cameras for use by his reporters. You would pick up the Nikon, get the story and digital pictures and return the camera to the Nugget office. One of the pictures usually turned up with the story.

I finally purchased my own Nikon digital camera and used it on story assignments. As I remember, story writers that needed help with pictures would have someone else do the photography. This may be part of the Sun-Times plan.

So, in a sense, The Bulletin and the Nugget were ahead of their times. My opinion is that a reporter can make good use of a camera when covering a story. It’s adding pictures to words.

Today, we are seeing the transition from point-and-shoot digital cameras to smartphone cameras. Point-and-shoot camera sales are down 46 percent this year. Smartphones have built-in camera technology that is advancing rapidly.

The Chicago Sun-Times is betting that their reporters will be able to add digital photos with their stories. Using smartphones also allows uploading pictures from the field with the story.

Almost certainly, other newspapers will follow the Chicago Sun-Times example. Today’s digital technology has put a financial stress on many newspapers. The public can gather news information over Internet connections using smartphones, tablets, computers, etc.

The above story is how I remember it. However, times are changing.

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