Blogs > 37th Frame

Photography, notes, commentary and much more from former Reporter Online Editor Chris Stanley.

Friday, November 30, 2007

Sports photo battle

Interesting battle brewing in Illinois, the outcome of which may affect the way newspapers cover high school sports.
This year, the Illinois High School Association, the state-wide governing body for high school sports (similar to the PIAA in Pennsylvania) took on newspapers who have been covering playoff games and selling reprints of photos taken at these games. It seems that the IHSA has an exclusive contract with a professional photographic company to cover the playoff games, and sell reprints to the public. This is nothing new; the PIAA has a similar arrangement.
Newspapers covering these events have often sold reprints of their photos, along with those from the rest of the newspaper. This is also nothing new. Until now, media outlets generally had unhindered access to such events.
So what's new? The internet. Newspapers, photographers and even some parents now sell dozens or hundreds of photos on the internet from high school events. The event photographers, fearing for their business and citing their exclusive contracts, are starting to take on what they now see as competition. Media outlets claim that the First Ammenement allows them to cover events as they see fit, without private interests limiting how they do so or how many photos can be posted.
The battle has now escalated; the IHSA blocked several photographers from a recent football game for not agreeing to their terms. The Illinois Press Association filed a lawsuit, which is still in negotiation.
There are many interesting angles to this issue- one the one hand, you can't blame the event photographers for defending their substantial investment in covering these tournaments, which are often spread over several days in many locations. Their primary interest is not in preventing media coverage, but rather preventing reprint sales that cut into their business.
On the other hand, the way media outlets cover news and sports has changed dramatically over the past few years. No longer are they limited to a couple of photos in the next day's edition after a playoff game; now they can post online photo galleries, videos, statistics and extra stories. The First Ammendment does not specify in what medium the press can present coverage; is an online video or multi-photo gallery not as much coverage as a story in the paper product? How many photos does it take to cross the line into event photography? Five? Twenty? One-hundred? Who gets to decide?
And the other factor is the parents and taxpayers who have funded the schools, the buildings and fields they practice on, and paid the salaries of the coaches. Unlike professional sports, which are generally private entities (although one can argue they often play in publicly-funded stadiums), public schools have some accountability to the public, through a school board or similar governing body.
If you are a parent, how would you feel if you were told you could not videotape an event your child was participating in? Ask the band parents. Some large regional marching band competitions already have such restrictions in place. Videos of these events are available from a professional videographer, for a charge.
This issue is likely to escalate as profit margins for all sides get thinner.

Friday, November 23, 2007


Retailers open Thanksgiving Day

NEW YORK (AP) - The start of the holiday shopping season crept earlier into Thursday as retailers lured shoppers to stores and online ahead of the traditional Black Friday kick-off.

For the second year in a row, CompUSA Inc. opened its doors on Thanksgiving, with stores scheduled to open at 9 p.m., except in Massachusetts where local laws preclude holiday hours. CompUSA also added an extra incentive for consumers this year by providing pumpkin pie for those in line.

Iconic toy store FAO Schwarz — with locations in New York, Chicago and Las Vegas — opened its doors on the holiday as well. Store hours for the three locations were 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

In the past, holiday shopping on Thanksgiving Day was limited to discount stores like Kmart and Wal-Mart, as well as grocery retailers and 24-hour convenience stores like 7-Eleven Inc. Kmart, operated by Sears Holdings Corp., is taking it one step further, offering for the first time Thanksgiving Day specials on TVs to GPS systems.

"Some people just can't wait until Friday," said Kirsten Whipple, a Sears spokeswoman. "Thanksgiving dinner is done and they have moved on." Kmart's special Thanksgiving deals include an Olevia 32-inch LCD HDTV for $419.99 and a Magellan GPS system for $129.99.

Dozens of shoppers at Kmart in Raleigh, N.C., were met with doughnuts and coffee as early as 7 a.m., and when the store opened, they quickly cleared the shelves of top-selling items: Nintendo's Wii, selling for $249.99; the Magellan Maestro 3100 Navigation System for $129.99 and 32-inch Olevia LCD television for $419.99.

Rick Long was one of the first shoppers in line and snagged his only planned purchase: the 32-inch flat screen.

"There's actually one that's going to be cheaper tomorrow, but there's going to be a bigger line," Long said after hoisting his purchase into the back of his car. "So, I figure paying the extra $20 is worth it."


Thanksgiving is one of the last holidays that marketers have yet to completely dissect. Sure, there is two months of 'Our Turkey is Better Than Yours' shows on the food channel, but basically this humble holiday has defied the gross commercialization that has enveloped many of our other national and religious celebrations.

"Black Friday," a real American holiday celebrating all things commercial, has protected Thanksgiving for many years by giving compulsive shoppers an outlet for their creative spending without treading on Family and Football Time. Perhaps these folks were sitting at the Thanksgiving dinner table shaking and twitching, visions of Kohl's and Best Buy circulars dancing around in their heads - but at least they were at the table.

Retailers have finally found a way to change all that. An amazingly simple solution - just open early! Open Thanksgiving night! Open in the afternoon! Heck, open 7am Thanksgiving morning, why not?

The danger, even for the retailers, is that Thanksgiving will become just like every other day. Same traffic, same commercials, same shopping. Sure, there will always be football and turkey dinners. But when the family is rushing out the door to grab a great deal on a digital camera, nobody has time to sit and chat with the relatives or play with the kids.

Do you think the Pilgrims and Native Americans would have left their table for a really good deal on a flat TV?

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Starstruck II

Photo by John Strickler, The Mercury

Christmas, 70's style: Dreamworks employees prepare a street in Royersford for upcoming filming of 'The Lovely Bones' Friday.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007


It's been alot of fun following the wave of newspaper stories that follow the crew of the Peter Jackson movie, 'The Lovely Bones,' as they worked their way from West Chester, to Hatfield, and now toward Delaware County. They are getting ready to film scenes in a mall there, apparently an old-looking mall since the story is supposed to take place in the 70's. Lucky for our newspaper chain, much of the filming in this area coincides with the circulation area of our newspapers.
Many seem to have their own 'sighting' relating to the shooting - be it one of the stars or more likely one of the props, including a convertible Mustang and a station wagon that were brought to Hatfield on a flatbed truck. One person driving by at night got a glimpse of the set when somebody opened a door. Inside was a house, or at least the wall of a house. One blog claims that Dreamworks executive and uber-director Steven Speilberg even visited the set in Hatfield a couple of weeks ago.
I wonder if he stopped at Tiger's Deli on his way back to the executive jet?
Filming moves to New Zealand at the end of January. I think it is only appropriate that several members of our newspaper's staff travel with the film crew to complete our coverage of this very important story. Don't you?

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Election night waiting game

Waiting for Bruce Castor and Jim Matthews to speak to the half-dozen or so TV cameras, still photgraphers, plus several print and radio reporters at Cedarbrook Country Club in Lower Gwynedd was a lesson in frustration for the faithful and the media Tuesday night. It seems that the "close" race prevented them from saying too much early, though most in the room seemed to be pretty comfortable with the Republican victory long before the candidates finally emerged around 11:30 pm. Castor, never shy around a TV camera, and Matthews missed their chance for an appearance on the local 11 pm news.
Jim Matthews made a point of introducing his famous brother, Chris Matthews (of 'Hardball' fame), who drove up from Washington DC to attend the festivities at Cedarbrook.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

A bad rap for B&W

... everything looks WORSE in black and white
They give us those nice bright colors
They give us the greens of summers
Makes you think all the world's a sunny day, Oh yeah
I got a Nikon camera
I love to take a photograph
So mama don't take my Kodachrome away

Lyrics by Paul Simon

Watch political ads carefully.

Cue: ominous music.
Cue: Low-voiced announcer trashing a "bad" candidate
Cue: Black-and-white photos of said candidate, looking sideways or eating
Cue: Negative newspaper headlines about candidate, stacked one on top of another
Cue: Upbeat music
Cue: Same announcer, after a scotch or two
Cue: Well-lit color photos of "good" candidate, hopefully with children, police or veterans
Cue: Positive headlines, set in light, colorful type

There are so many beautiful black-and-white photos out there. Think Edward Weston or Ansel Adams.
There are many ugly color photos. Think about the many war photos we have seen from Korea, Vietnam and Iraq over the years.
It's a shame that black-and-white photography gets so thoroughly trashed by our political candidates this time of year, every year.
It's not the candidates that look good or bad, just our perceptions of what we see and how it is presented. If we can train ourselves to recognize and overcome "visual bias," then we have won a battle against those who would like to manipulate us.