Press Talk: News photographers show their worth

By Lou Brancaccio, Columbian Editor

Published:

 

Lou Brancaccio is The Columbian's editor emeritus. His column of personal opinion appears the first Saturday of every month. Reach him at lounews1@gmail.com.

Snow.

Lots of it.

When the cabbie (no Uber drivers were available) brought us to our Salmon Creek driveway Wednesday after a few days away in 80-degrees-and-sunny Punta Gorda, Fla., he had no interest in leaving the street.

“Can’t go in there. Won’t get out,” he said matter-of-factly. 

With a foot of snow lying politely but menacingly in our driveway, the end of the line came just a bit too early for a guy carrying luggage.

Still, we managed. Cranked up the heat — 41 degrees in the house was not a good sleeping temperature — trekked to Freddie’s, and, like virtually everyone else here, hunkered down.

However, unlike virtually everyone else, I and the rest of the newsroom got up Thursday morning and ventured into the ghost town called Vancouver.

Clark County shut down

Anyone reading this in the Great Northwest knows the vast majority of folks who live here weren’t moving from their warm family rooms on Thursday.

Roads were icy, snow was everywhere, and it was bitter cold.

Schools, most government offices and many businesses were all shut down.

Even The Columbian wasn’t up and running full steam. If you weren’t part of the mission-critical operation here, you stayed home. It was so treacherous, in fact, our print edition was not delivered Wednesday or Thursday. It was one of the few times that has ever happened.

(Most folks did receive those papers on Friday.)

Newsroom kept going

But the newsroom didn’t miss a beat.

We knew the newspaper wouldn’t be delivered for a couple of days, but in today’s world, there are alternatives. Our website — www.columbian.com — is one of the most popular in the area. So even if you don’t typically use it, anyone with a computer or a smartphone could access our news.

We also have a facsimile, electronic edition of The Columbian that looks just like our print edition. It usually costs money, but we offered it for free on the days we couldn’t get the paper out to you.

Photographers rule

Reporters have taken advantage of new technology for years now. Email, texting, Twitter, Facebook and more are all being used to gather and distribute information. So it’s certainly possible for reporters to cover many stories without leaving the office.

Photographers and videographers, however, are old-school out of necessity. Oh, they have the most modern equipment and can even send their work to us from the field … but — simply put — they have to be on the scene. In other words, there is no “phoning it in” for them. 

We have two visual artists on staff: Amanda Cowan and Ariane Kunze. They shoot both still photographs and video. And they were out after the snowstorm.

“You’ll be driving along and sometimes it’s like, ‘Oh my God, I’ve got to stop! Pull over! Run!’ ” Ariane said.

“You’re always looking. Sometimes, you can’t find a safe place to stop. But we get most things,” Amanda said.

Amanda added that she gets that it’s important to deliver compelling photos, especially in big weather moments.

“It’s all hands on deck and stay out of a ditch,” she said.

Ariane agrees.

“We have a responsibility and a duty.”

And both said our readers have an expectation that they would see quality coverage of a major snowstorm.

“It’s a big deal here. If this is Colorado, it’s just Thursday, but it’s a really big deal here,” Amanda said.

We’re fortunate to have Amanda and Ariane on our staff. The community is fortunate as well.