FLORIDA ELECTION MESS ISN’T PHOTOGENIC

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By: Dorothy Ho

News Outlets Have Few Photographers On the Scene





(PDNewswire from Photo District News) It’s hard to believe it was only two years
ago that photographers were jostling each other and running
around town just to snap pictures of Monica Lewinsky, the
infamous intern in the last big political story of our time.



This year, it seems the presidential action down in Florida isn’t
drawing the same crowds. The New York Times national photo
editor Lonnie Schlien recalls: “I heard yesterday that not a lot
of photographers are there. On the one hand, it’s surprising. I
suspect that some publications think it’s not a good picture
story.”



His newspaper stationed photographers Vincent Laforet and Chang
Lee in Florida to cover the story. Schlien adds: “It’s one of the
big news stories of our time. How can The New York Times
not send anyone down there?”



The Washington Post didn’t. Assistant managing editor of
photography Joe Elbert describes the photo opportunities in
Florida as “a lot of talking heads” and he’d rather free up his
staff to do longer-term picture essays. He says his paper didn’t
send any photographers because the wire services and good local
newspapers have the situation covered.



“I don’t believe that we should all be chasing the different
players all over town,” Elbert adds. “Look at the state, how big
it is. Until they moved to Tallahassee, it was all over the
state. If I had a photographer in Palm Beach and something
happens in Miami or Tallahassee, it’s not a great use of
resources.”



Peter W. Cross, the assistant managing editor of photography at
The Palm Beach Post, says few photographers are left
because there is not much happening. “When Katherine Harris
certified the votes and said George W. Bush is the winner, that
was pretty much the end of the story visually until the Supreme
Court rules,” he says. But, he adds, “You cannot ignore the
story. This is part of history being made.”



There were many more photographers from agencies and newspapers
during the recount, Cross says. “Now it’s a lot of legal
arguments, so it’s not very visual, no more ballot counting,
protests or rallies.” His newspaper has an exclusive deal with
Newsweek, which uses their images. Such deals help explain
why few photographers are in Florida. For the record, the
newsmagazines have each sent a photographer: Najlah Feanny of
Saba for Newsweek, Stephen Ferry of Liaison for
Time, and Scott Goldsmith for US News and World
Report.



Sipa Press didn’t send any photographers. Instead, they are
working with The Miami Herald to get pictures, says Sipa
Press bureau chief Sue Brisk. She says the newspaper can cover
many areas for long periods of time. “Most of our photographers
prefer to work on long-term essays,” she says. “For them to sit
in Florida for three weeks, shooting the same person holding the
same thing, it’s not challenging.”



“There aren’t many photographers who are going to make Pulitzer
Prize-winning pictures on this story,” Brisk adds. “This is
politics and policy. This is legal and text-driven. I think it’s
very visually flat.” Compared to the Monica fracas, she says,
“Everybody wanted a picture of Monica. It was the big, big thing.
There’s nobody like Monica now. Monica was a sexy, sensational
story.”



The Washington Post’s Elbert quips: “Say you’re a
freelancer, how much are you going to get for a chad? A picture
of Diana, a picture of Monica, that sells.”







Copyright 2000, Editor & Publisher.

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