Decline of a once-great daily

   In the 1970s and 1980s, the Greensboro, N.C. News & Record was a great daily.  Four sections daily - most locally produced. 
   In the 1980s, it expanded into a metropolitan paper - derided by a local weekly as “The Eleven County News & Record” or the acronym “TECN&R.”  It printed five regional editions - and had bureaus in adjoining counties of the 11.
   When I had a portfolio review there in Sept. 2010, it had a robustly-staffed newsroom - even as the overall economy died.
   Since then, it was bought by Berkshire Hathaway - and has been through at least three big downsizings, two in the past year.  It had entire levels of middle management downsized.  Its current directory looks like a high school paper.  And it got gutted to two, sometimes three, sections daily - largely cut and pasted from the wire.
   Pitching something to an editor there this past month, I was told it now really is only the TWO county News & Record - far down from when a local weekly ridiculed it as the ELEVEN County News & Record!  This county - among those 11 - it basically now no longer covers, that editor told me.
   An appreciable percentage of ad space now is a Berkshire Hathaway real-estate ad.  Needless to say, you can’t get high ad rates from yourself!

Photos from this then-recent Tea Party rally were a big part of my portfolio review.
Greensboro, N.C., Apr. 15, 2010.

Covering 2020: Democrats

   Covering 2020?  The Democrats have two possible presidential contenders who cannot be written off - as absurd as each seems.
   Although the July-August 2017 issue of “Atlantic” reported that top-echelon circles of the Democrats listed 28 unnamed possible credible contenders - as in potential contenders who’d be taken seriously if they ran - the two seemingly-absurd “sleeper” possibilities are Hillary Clinton and Oprah Winfrey:
   Hillary: despite age, losing twice to nobodies, apparent health problems - and decades of sometimes contradictory paper trail - must be tempted by Trump’s failure on the issue that elected him: middle-class jobs.  Thousands of middle-class jobs in many industries got downsized in the past three months.  Add his flip-flops on “DREAMers” and guns recently - and Trump is very weak for 2020; he only won by 75,000 in three key states.  Ironically like Trump is a cult of personality; her 2016 campaign even had hashtag #PantsuitPower.
   Oprah: extreme paper trail problem of many years of unscripted daily shows, a nobody - but has to realize that another guy lacking any political experience just won!  Lacks any political agenda, though.
   Either of these is worth including in your photo library - starting now.

Covering 2020 - Republican Party

   Covering GOP presidential wannabes in 2020?  There are four Republican Parties - based on stories I’ve covered - with considerable overlap among the first three:
   Trump dead-enders: Named after similar to-anywhere followers of Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein, they will back Trump no matter how bad things get.  They are functionally all white - and overwhelmingly retired, from any part of U.S.; that age makes his slogan “Make America Great Again” resonate strongly with them - because age makes them remember when this really was a great nation.  They are driven by the economic, social, and foreign-respect collapse of America after the Vietnam War - and their view that Trump can restore what had been.  Like cops or Mafia people in that they don’t care if you like them - but are obsessed with being respected.  It is a cult of personality - and I’m hardly the first observer to say that: Trump is America’s first personality-cult president.  Trump is, of course, their cause.
   Tea Party: Functionally all white - but all ages; driven by economic collapse of middle class.  Just want back affluence; not particularly interested in any one president or candidate.  But their logical 2020 candidate is Newt Gingrich - who campaigned at Tea Party rallies in his 2012 presidential campaign.
   Social-issues right: All white, all ages but most older, mainly heartland.  Driven by abortion, gun rights, or same-sex marriage; really not interested in economy or foreign policy.  Ted Cruz again their likely candidate - as in 2016.
   Country-club Republicans: Driven by economic concerns of the affluent - tax cuts, Obamacare, etc.; don’t care about much else.  Mitt Romney - as in 2012 - is their logical guy, if he can get elected to the Senate in Utah.

Mitt Romney’s son Tagg campaigns for him, Burlington, N.C., Oct. 17, 2012.

My first assignment

   In the month after I shot my breakout work, I got my first assignment - portajohns!  I was to rapidly learn a lot about the portajohn industry after an email from a magazine I’d never heard of - Portable Restroom Operator - offering $350 to shoot a package for an update on a story on a major area business I’d never previously heard of: Piedmont Portables.
   So I arranged to shoot Piedmont Portables.  Most of the assignment went smoothly - though I ended up there three times to get more photos and captions for the Wisconsin-based industrial magazine. 
   But the key photo of the assignment - a cover photo of a Piedmont Portables portajohn sited on a construction site - was unobtainable.  As I explained to the client, nobody was doing construction in this area then, and some major building projects had simply been abandoned.  So I told the magazine’s editorial staff to contact Piedmont Portables itself for confirmation that nobody was doing construction then here - which they explained.
   The magazine arranged with Piedmont Portables for the portajohn company itself to provide that cover photo as soon as one was rented on a job site.   In the meantime, they paid me.
   In their Feb. 2013 issue, some of my package ran (below) - such as Piedmont Portables employee Keith Barksdale spray-cleaning a larger unit.

Shot on assignment for Portable Restroom Operator:
Piedmont Portables worker Keith Barksdale cleans a portajohn.
Ran Feb. 2013 issue.

Covering the “Resistance” against Trump

   Covering the “Resistance” - the street movement of Democrats against Trump that began very soon after his inauguration?  Big opportunity later this month.
   A first anniversary of the women’s “Resistance” marches immediately after he became president is scheduled for the weekend of Jan. 20-21, the day and time locally depending on where you are.  Raleigh, N.C. has  a march scheduled for Saturday morning.
   Of course - as I noted - whether the “Resistance” gets taken seriously like Occupy was by politicians, the press, and the public depends totally on whether it becomes a chronic presence seemingly everywhere the way that Occupy did fast.  So far, it has failed to become a nationwide grouping of “Trumpvilles” in the way Occupy immediately became nationwide “Obamavilles” - seemingly unending encampments of jobless college graduates and a few other struggling Americans.
   So far, the “Resistance” has failed to be a news item - and stayed limited to the egghead few.

Occupy Greensboro (N.C.), Oct. 15, 2011.

Next year’s coming big stories

   Next year’s coming big stories will be political protest and the economy - at least on a national level.  Sure, other things may be bigger stories locally - but, for national stories, the economy and political protest will dominate for ongoing persistent news stories.
   So far, opposition to Pres. Trump hasn’t shown the endlessness that Occupy did - or the everywhereness that both Occupy and the Tea Party were noted for; instead, the “Resistance” has been limited to marches and rallies of a few hours each - in a very few places.  So far, opposition to Trump has centered on ideological differences.
   But will the issue that elected Trump - middle-class jobs for a largely dispossessed middle class - spark Occupy-like “Trumpvilles?”  In the past three months, massive downsizing of middle-class jobs has been a common news story; General Electric alone just downsized 12,000 more - and Ford downsized over 1,000 middle managers, Boeing 300 engineers, Lowe’s its entire IT department of 120.  And many other companies also did big downsizings of middle-class jobs during that three months: GM, Berkshire Hathaway newspapers, Blue Cross of North Carolina, Kellogg, Carrier, AT&T. 
   So far, however, neither the establishment Democrats - nor the “street” “Resistance” - have mobilized the downsized into a street-protest movement resembling Occupy or even the Tea Party.  Nor, so far, have establishment Democrats made a political issue of the continuing massive downsizings of middle-class jobs.
   But any “new Occupy” - or even an anti-Trump “Tea Party”-style movement - is the coming big news story.  Coming - because Occupy’s “campers” obviously simply didn’t have good jobs they couldn’t afford to be truant from!
   Similarly, the economy itself will provide great photojournalism potential - for the shooter willing and able to be observant and creative.

Occupy Chapel Hill (N.C.), Oct 22, 2011.

Batteries, batteries…

   Batteries are a major hassle for photographers - particularly photojournalists, who must rely on their batteries staying both able and not corroding gear despite being in scalding-hot car interiors in summer and freezing car interiors in winter.  Fortunately, some do work fine every time.
   In the “AA” alkaline batteries flash units need, my strong preference is Ray-O-Vac; they don’t corrode - and stay powerful for six months unused in a flash left in a car.  I’ve also never had problems with Duracell.
   I’ve had corrosion troubles with Eveready alkalines - fortunately never in photo use, as I simply won’t use them in that!
   My choice of where to get batteries is Lowe’s - as they sell them cheap in discount volume packs for building tradesmen, ensuring high turnover of those for sale and thus fresh ones.
   For rechargeables, I’ve never had trouble with either Eveready or Promaster Ni-MH batteries for powering digicams. 
   But - for proprietary battery packs for dSLRs - my choice is either Green Extreme or Promaster lithium-ion rechargeables.  Either is much less expensive than Canon’s - but works just as well.  Adorama sells Green Extreme inexpensively.

Your will. (You do have one, I hope)

   You do have a will, I hope.

   If you have any kind of creative work, you need a will; whether it is a photo library, songwriting, news stories, or fiction.  Sure, your state will “make a will” for you if you die without one - as law students are taught - but rest assured that, if your estate looks valuable, all sorts of self-proclaimed “relatives” will seek claims on it if you die without a will, as now is happening with the estate of a superstar singer.
   Sure, you’re now young - but you can die in an auto wreck or home fire tomorrow.  And that photo in your library of the kid playing high school football gets very valuable if it’s the only publishable quality one of him playing high school ball if he makes the NFL - or becomes a rock superstar.
   So get a basic will done, now.  Have it done - or reviewed - by a lawyer; the lawyer will keep a copy of it - and make sure it complies with your state’s laws.  And a lawyer is a good choice for your executor - so your estate’s disposition won’t be left to some idiot who is a relative.

What next for New York Daily News?

  What’s next for the New York Daily News - now that it has sold for the please-take-this-paper price of one dollar, with the buyer assuming all assets and liabilities?  In particular, what’s next for the freelance  photojournalists it paid top day rates to shoot distant stories?
   When I shot two stories for them in 2012, it was $500 per day - plus, of course, your work possibly running top market on top stories.  I shot the Petraeus/Broadwell story for them (below) - and soon was called back to shoot an NFL-related story for them; they ran one of my photos from the football story about the Giants’ new rookie star.
   But since then, they seem to be skimping on assignments - instead running wire content to every possible extent.
   What is clear is that - unlike Gannett, which owns so many daillies so widely scattered and now shares content among them as a very successful mini-AP - there just is very little opportunity for “New York’s Picture Newspaper” to run content from a chain whose newspapers seem very few and limited to Chicago and Los Angeles.  So either it must return to jobbing out such work whenever far from NYC - or continue using wire feeds.
   I’d bet they return to hiring out such work.


Shot on assignment for New York Daily News:
Paula Broadwell’s sons leave to play with neighbor and a girl.

The assignment I refused

   One of New York City’s three dailies had called offering an assignment - and I turned it down.  What was wrong with the proposed assignment?  In a word, everything.
   The New York Post wanted me to interview the back-home-here-again wife of a top New York politician in a headline scandal and write the story - for $200.  The offered payment alone was a dealbreaker; I explained to the editor or whoever had called that my day rate for NYC dailies was $500 - and I’d already had such gigs and payment from their competitor, the Daily News.
   The story practically would have written itself; anyone familiar with the 5 Ws and 1 H could easily do it.  Surely some J-school student in Charlotte - far closer to the wife - could have been found; the opportunity for a tearsheet from the front page of an NYC daily alone would have been a big opportunity.  So did they want me - or was everyone nearer the wife’s home refusing?
   One problem - their adamant insistence on $200 as payment - alone ended it.  Going nearly to Charlotte and back would have made the gig very minimally profitable.  
   But the real problem is that day rate would have meant I’d never get more from that paper - and quite possibly have my day rate with the Daily News “renegotiated” soon after.  I explained to the person at the New York Post that one of my photos - sold through an agency - already had run front page on a top story in their paper - and that the Daily News was paying my day rate - and, with that, the call ended.
   Later, I did a photo assignment for the New York Post - a top story - at a reasonable day rate: the just-fired executive editor of the New York Times was commencement speaker at Wake Forest (below).

Shot on assignment for the New York Post:
Just fired as executive editor of the New York Times,
Jill Abramson gives 2014 commencement speech at Wake Forest.