• Cover image for Toward 2020 Journal Download

Shannon Clarke
Special to the RJRC

ACC POSTER MASTER

Editorial cartoonists from across North America will meet at the Ryerson School of Journalism this weekend to grapple with issues of censorship, intimidation and other challenges they face in the course of doing their work.

The 2016 convention of the Association of Canadian Cartoonists/Association des Caricaturistes Canadiens (ACC) is meeting in Toronto for the first time in more than a decade. The biannual event will bring together prominent members from the cartooning community in Canada and abroad, including 2016 Pulitzer Prize winner Jack Ohman of The Sacramento Bee.

“The advancement of the profession of cartooning in Canada is a mandate of ours,” said ACC president, Wes Tyrell. “[Editorial cartooning] is a critical component of opinion, editorial pieces.”

Together with the Ryerson Journalism Research Centre, the ACC will hold two public presentations that are free and open to the public at the Rogers Communications Centre. The lineup for the morning of Friday, May 6, includes Christian Vachon, curator of The McCord Museum in Montreal; Shahid Mahmood a Toronto-based political cartoonist who has been been fighting to get his name removed from the U.S. no-fly list; and Nik Kowsar of Cartoonists Rights Network International will join  former Vancouver Province political cartoonist Dan Murphy for an update on global CRNI issues.

On Saturday morning, Ohman will join fellow Pulitzer Prize winner Ann Telnaes (Washington Post) to discuss editorial cartooning and the U.S election. They will be joined by Université du Québec à Montréal professor Dominic Hardy who will talk about the history of cartooning in Quebec. There will also be a Q&A session with American caricaturist Philip Burke, whose work has appeared in Rolling Stone, Vanity Fair and The New York Times among other publications.

The editorial cartooning community is small and getting smaller as members have retired, lost their jobs or left the business, said Tyrell. Add to this the technological changes involved in producing work for publication, he said, and conferences like these become more important each year.

“When I started doing this…just about every paper in the country had their own cartoonist on staff, so there would be 70 or 80 cartoonists working across the country,” he said. “Now we’re down to maybe 20 people who are actually on staff.”

The presentations are an opportunity for student journalists and aspiring artists to learn more about editorial cartooning and the powerful impact it can have. A cartoon by the Chronicle Herald’s Bruce MacKinnon captured the grief of a country shocked by the murder of Cpl. Nathan Cirillo at Parliament Hill in 2014. It quickly went viral and appeared on television broadcasts and news sites across the country.

Last year’s attacks at Charlie Hebdo, meanwhile, reignited an international debate about free speech. And when the Toronto Star rejected a cartoon of Canada without Quebec (it was later published on Twitter) the Huffington Post asked if the newspaper “[went] too far.

Although the craft and the community have changed, editorial cartoonists face many of the same challenges, Tyrell said. “You have to be prepared to deal with your public. You should have enough control and common sense for what’s going to work but you want your voice to be true.”

The convention allows journalists to address these issues together, including how to grapple with the new and sometimes dangerous environment in which they’re publishing.

The convention runs until May 8 and coincides with a Royal Ontario Museum exhibition of original editorial cartoons from before Confederation to the present. “Point & Punch: Historical Editorial Cartoons of J.W. Bengough (1851-1923) and Sam Hunter (1858-1939) runs until Sept. 18.

 

Click here to see the live blog transcript for this event.

By SHANNON CLARKE
Special to the RJRC

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Changes in how the public consumes news and the implications of these changes for journalism and journalism education will be the focus of an April 28 colloquium hosted by the Ryerson Journalism Research Centre.

The meeting of international scholars, journalists and educators is the first in a series of Journalism Transformations colloquia organized by the RJRC. The morning lecture, which is open to the public, will feature presentations that examine changes in local news coverage, audience behaviour and technology.

The day begins with “The Audience Revolution,” a public panel with Philip Napoli, professor and associate dean of research at Rutgers University; Kim Schrøder, professor of communications at Roskilde University in Denmark; Alexis Lloyd, creative director of The New York Times R&D Lab; and discussant, Retha Hill, a professor at Arizona State University’s Cronkite School of Journalism. Rich Gordon of Northwestern University and Carrie Brown of City University of New York will also be a part of the day’s events.

The panel discussion is an opportunity for journalists and non-journalists alike to hear how newsrooms are adapting to the evolving media landscape and the interests of their audiences.

Asmaa Malik, an associate professor of journalism at Ryerson’s School of Journalism, said the idea for the event grew out of a discussion with co-organizers Gavin Adamson and Ivor Shapiro, and other journalism professors on the changing value proposition of journalism school. As the industry changes, more prospective students (and their parents) question what comes after a journalism degree.

Malik said the job of educators now is to prepare journalism students for careers both inside and outside of traditional newsrooms: “It’s not like we’re training reporters or editors; we’re trying to train people who are fully-equipped for whatever’s ahead and we don’t know necessarily what’s coming down the pipe.”

Napoli, the principal investigator for the News Measures Research Project at Rutgers, will discuss how news has responded to audience behaviour, with an emphasis on how those changes affect local news consumption. Schrøder will contribute his research, the bulk of which was conducted before the digital era began, examining international news consumption shift away from traditional mediums to digital platforms. Alexis Lloyd will discuss her experience at The New York Times, reflecting on how technology engages news audiences and enhances journalism.

Update: Alex Watson, of The Telegraph Media Group in London, will replace Alexis Lloyd on April 28. He is The Telegraph’s head of product and a former technology journalist and led the team behind the creation of the newspaper’s new content management system

 

By STEPH WECHSLER
Special to the RJRC

(Left to right) Theirry Gervias, head of research at Ryerson Image Centre, and photojournalist and journalism instructor Peter Bregg Photo: Steph Wechsler

(Left to right) Thierry Gervias, head of research at Ryerson Image Centre, and photojournalist and journalism instructor Peter Bregg. Photo: Steph Wechsler

Digital photography and the capacity to edit pictures quickly and affordably have reopened debate over what editorializing means in images and the nature of photojournalistic neutrality, says award-winning photographer Peter Bregg.

New technologies have expanded the options for manipulating photographs, Bregg said during a panel discussion organized by the Ryerson Journalism Research Centre: “If a photo is heavily enhanced in post production is it the truth as it happened, or is the photographer trying to influence the reader?”

Bregg, winner of the 2014 Canadian Journalism Foundation’s lifetime achievement award and an instructor at Ryerson’s School of Journalism, was joined on the panel by Thierry Gervais, the head of research at the Ryerson Image Centre and curator of Dispatch: War Photographs in Print, 1854-2008. The pair discussed the evolution of war photography, photojournalism trends, neutrality and how the meaning of images can change depending on the audience and where they are displayed.

“If you’re taking a picture where half the picture [is] in sunlight and the other half [is] in shadow, in the days of film, it wasn’t worth printing usually,” Bregg said. “But with RAW [the uncompressed image file from the sensor in a digital camera or scanner], you can go in there and lighten the shadows so it looks proper. You can darken the highlights in the sunshine so it looks okay.”

The ability to alter images has led to new rules governing what can and cannot be changed, he noted. In the World Press Photo contest, for example, “entrants are not permitted to make changes in colour that result in significant changes in hue to the extent that the processed colours diverge from the original colours,” he said. The rules, however, have not put an end to debates about photo manipulation.

Major controversy, for instance, surrounded Swedish photographer Paul Hansen’s 2013 World Press Photo prize for “Gaza Burial.” Hansen’s image, which depicts a procession of grieving uncles carrying their dead nephews through an alleyway after the children were killed in an Israeli airstrike, came under fire for what critics said appeared to be excessive tonal manipulation in post-production.

Forensic experts who studied the photo found that there were, “no additions– pixel for pixel– or subtractions,” Bregg said, noting that Hansen was allowed to keep his prize. “They did find there was a fair amount of post production, meaning the guy went into Photoshop. He changed the colours a bit to make it more dramatic. Made the shadows darker.”

The rules listed on the World Press Photo website say that adjusting colour is considered acceptable so long as it doesn’t excessively divert from the original image. Minor cropping or removing spots from negatives is also permitted, but staging scenes is completely prohibited. While some of these rules are fairly straightforward, others, as Bregg and Gervais suggested, are highly subjective. The World Press Photo’s 2015 entry rules page, for instance, says that “the content of an image must not be altered. Only retouching that conforms to currently accepted standards in the industry is allowed. The jury is the ultimate arbiter of these standards.”

Bregg argued that while “the standards really haven’t changed, the technology has changed dramatically.” He noted that there is a long history of manipulating news images: “People have been doing this for years in that you went into the darkroom, and if the background didn’t suit you, you could make it darker” by exposing an area of a print for longer.

Alternatively, the practice of dodging – what Bregg said photographers once called “the hand of God,” – is an old darkroom technique that involves waving an object, like a hand, between the enlarger lamp and the paper to limit the exposure, effectively lightening the image.

Gervais pointed to even earlier examples of photo manipulation. Engravings, he noted, were used to reproduce photographs in newspapers in the 19th century, and to make what were considered improvements at the time. Early photographs had a very narrow depth of field so the background was often blurry, but wood engravings could be etched with a higher degree of background detail compared to the original photographs.

Since the wood carvings conveyed details the photographic image could not, the engravings were considered a more complete depiction of the truth, Gervais said.

Editorial discretion, he added, is exercised in every aspect of journalism: “We are always talking about photography as a mechanical process and because of that, [we assume it is] more truthful, it’s more credible. And, okay, we can say that, but of course when you write, you emphasize something and not something else. I think that’s exactly what photographers are doing in this time.”

Gervais said meaning can also be changed depending on the camera used and where and how the photograph is displayed. As an example, he pointed to “Taliban” by French photographer Luc Delahaye. Delahaye’s 2001 image of a dead Taliban fighter was produced in two ways – with a common digital single-lens reflex (SLR) camera, and a panoramic camera. The former resulted in a regular-sized image that was published in the press, while the wider-format image from the latter was hung on the walls of a gallery.

The panoramic image, he noted, tells a story the press photos could not. In it, you can see footprints around the body and that the dead man’s shoes are missing. “He’s been robbed,” said Gervais. “That’s war. That’s what they do. They kill people, take their money, take their boots and leave.

“When you look at [the] photo that has been published taken with the SLR, all of that is gone,” he said. “I saw a kind of paradox. For me, you have a big image in which you can see a lot of detail because everything was super-sharp for the art gallery, and you have a cropped image losing a lot of information in the press. What can we say about that?

“I would have thought that the more information you put the better it is in the press,” he said.

Gervais and Bregg also discussed what makes an image “good.”

To Gervais, “an image is made of lines, it’s made of tones, it’s made of colours.” But most people can’t articulate why they like or dislike an image – it’s the intangible combination of visual elements, style and subject matter that make an image a success or a failure, he said.

Bregg said that instinct factors into the sense that a photograph works. He noted that submissions to the World Press Photo contest have soared in recent years so that these days a picture has to be “different” to get a judge’s attention. And while black and white was once the photographic standard, now it’s considered novel and arty: “What’s old is new and what’s new is old,” he observed.

The panelists agreed that while there have been momentous changes in equipment, access and taste, the core principle of photojournalism – the need to accurately convey what happened – hasn’t changed.

“The technology has changed but the ethics haven’t,” said Bregg. “We’re still supposed to work with the same ethics we did 100 years ago.”

Based on guidelines listed by Word Press Photo, the Canadian Association of Journalists and the National Press Photographer’s Association.

Based on guidelines listed by Word Press Photo, the Canadian Association of Journalists and the National Press Photographer’s Association.

By ILINA GHOSH
Staff Reporter

March 8, 2016

Robert Osborne, veteran freelancer and Ryerson journalism instructor, said pitching to the right outlet is critical to success in freelancing.

Robert Osborne, veteran freelancer and Ryerson journalism instructor, said pitching to the right outlet is critical to success in freelancing. [Ilina Ghosh]

Freelance journalists must pitch strategically and confidently and be “the raccoon[s] of the journalism world,” veteran freelancer Robert Osborne told students at a recent workshop organized by the Ryerson Journalism Research Centre.

Osborne’s workshop, which focused on selling stories and maximizing the return on work, took students through the freelance process, drawing on lessons he learned over his 14 years as a freelance journalist and producer.  Building a diverse set of skills and performing under a diverse set of conditions is critical to freelance success, he said.

“You’ve got to be the raccoon of the journalism world, where you can eat anything, go anywhere, do anything…to thrive.”  

Osborne, who is also an instructor at Ryerson’s School of Journalism, emphasized the need to find a fitting client for a pitch. Be a “heat-seeking missile” when targeting news outlets, he said.

“You can have the best story idea in the world but if you take it to the wrong place, you are going to get a lot of no’s.”

Pitching to the correct outlet is all about research, Osborne said.

“You’d be surprised at how many people will pitch perfectly good ideas to the wrong venue…So the first thing you have to do is read the magazine, watch the darn show, research their webpage, really take some time to think what kind of product are they looking for.”

A good pitch also involves a story with a clear focus, Osborne told students: “If you can’t explain the story in one line, you may not know what the hell your story is about.”

The next step is to expand the one line into what Osborne calls a “one page.”

“[A one page] is going to hit all the major bullet points [without being] a mini version of the story. It’s taking all of the salient issues and facts that are going to be involved in your story and putting them together as a sales pitch.”

When pitching to a broadcaster, a “sizzle reel” or pitch video is also necessary, Osborne said, and means freelance journalists must develop rudimentary shooting and editing skills.

“You may be never be a gifted cinematographer, you may never be a gifted editor, but you have to got to know how to string together something for a minute and 30. As well as a one page, every broadcaster from VICE to CBC to Green Ant Productions is going to be looking for a sizzle reel.”

While freelancing does involve a certain amount of working for free, Osborne also focused on how to “maximize your sweat equity.” Freelancers need to pitch the same idea in a variety of mediums and to a variety of outlets, Osborne said. Once an idea is picked up by a news organization, however, he advised against selling the same piece to a direct competitor.

Nick Dunne, a second-year journalism student, said the advice on pitching to multiple organizations and different mediums was especially interesting.

“[At this stage in school,] we’ve done a lot of focus on print and writing, so it was really interesting to see where you can go with [your work,] the different mediums you can bring it to, the opportunities that lie beyond print and more conventional means.”

Osborne said persistence is also an important part of life as a freelancer because unreturned phone calls and unanswered emails are to be expected.

“You have to have a thick skin. You have to keep going at it… in a persistent and polite way. You have to keep reminding them you’re still out there, find out if there’s an update in a story, that’s a reason to send them [another email.]”

While freelancing involves a lot of rejection, Osborne urged students to “have confidence in your good idea.”

“If you have an idea that you really feel strongly about, don’t let it collapse because the first place you took it says ‘We’re not interested.’ If that’s going to shatter you… then you’re in the wrong business. You’ve got to keep pushing that idea; if one person doesn’t like it, push it to another… until you get a hit,” he said.

Osborne ended the presentation with what to do “when you do get a nibble.” Be professional and willing to word hard, he said.

“If you’re obnoxious, if you’re difficult to work with, you will not get a second chance at any of these places. It is critical that when you do get a hook in, even the smallest of jobs with somebody, that you really act like a professional. Whatever they need done, you get it done.”