Case Study: How Strong Images Boost News Media Coverage

City Councilmen David Cataina (left) and Jim Graham were accompanied by service member pallbearers



Washington, D.C, Nov. 7, 2011

It is no secret that news organizations do not have the lush news budgets that they did a decade ago. Big city metro dailies have cut staff, reduced the size of their newspapers and slashed freelance budgets. New online media seldom have had the luxury of generous advertising to support lavish spending on news.

And today’s lingering economic problems have only made things worse. But you can turn all this economic distress to your advantage.

One area of news coverage to suffer is photography and other visual elements. News organizations simply do not have the staff or freelance budgets to generate the photographic content they would like to offer their readers. And that is where you can help them and gain greater news coverage and exposure for your organization’s or client’s message.

Whether you are having an event, staging a news conference or rolling out a study, you can provide photographic coverage that will greatly enhance the attractiveness of your story. To be sure, there are mainstream news organizations that will not publish your photos because it is content supplied by possibly biased sources or their public relations firms. But there also will be news organizations that provide expanded coverage or higher profile display because your story comes with photography.

In more than 30 years of being in the news business, I can tell you one of the constant drum beats in newsrooms is to get reporters and editors to think about how they are going to illustrate a story.  Whether it’s a one-on-one meeting between editor and reporter, or a bigger meeting of top editors planning the Sunday paper, the frequent question when discussing a story is, “Whadda got for art?”

As a case study, consider last week’s memorial event at the Carnegie Library for gay activist Franklin Kameny.

Bob Witeck, a co-founder of Witeck-Combs Communications, was one of the lead organizers of the event. Witeck knew some news organizations would send photographers. But he did not know how many. Witeck also knew it would be valuable to have a documentary photographer to add to the collection of biographical materials and chronicle Kameny’s achievements, materials that have found a home in at the Smithsonian Institution.

“Having good photography was essential to continuing Kameny’s fight for equality,” Witeck said. “Strong images would allow us to raise public awareness of his contributions and his message, as well as provide an meaningful experience to supporters who were unable to attend the event.”

So, that is when Witeck called in Robert Dodge Photography to document the event. We agreed that it was essential to have the images available immediately after the event for interested news organizations.

“We knew that some news organizations might run a short story or brief on the event. But if we had photos, they might do a bigger story or even a photo essay on their web site,” Witeck said.

Having photo coverage paid dividends. Among the big hits: Both the Huffington Post and The Advocate, a national gay news magazine, ran extensive photo essays. “This is clearly coverage we would not have received without a photographer,” Witeck said.

Event organizer Bob Witeck greets military pallbearers.

Councilman Graham is interviewed by television reporters.

"Gay is Good," the famous Kameny mantra that changed lives.

Getting ready: Military pallbears recognized Kameny's World War II service.

An usher pauses to look at the Kameny casket before the public viewing begins.

The famous Kameny protest sign with flowers and flag-draped casket.

Kameny's casket with flag, flowers and a military guard.

Washington DC area residents dropped by after work to pay their respects.

Mourners with the Kameny protest sign made for powerful images.

Councilman Cataina and other officials spoke at the ceremony.

Members of the Gay Men's Chorus of Washington provided inspirational music.

Under dramatic evening lights, Kameny's casket is carried out of the building.

A final salute for a hero, activist and champion of civil liberties.


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