By the time I started working at newspapers in the ’70s, The Associated Press had become so dominant that about all most people saw of UPI was the unmistakable visage of Helen Thomas at White House press briefings.
In all the subsequent years, I only worked at one paper that subscribed to UPI — The Wichita Eagle-Beacon (now just “Wichita Eagle”).
I appreciated that for one reason — the photos. Time and time again, the photos that came crawling out of our UPI machine were better than the ones AP sent us from the same events.
I knew this because it was part of my job to make such critical comparisons. I was the news editor, which meant I was in charge of the paper from 6 p.m. until the last page went to bed after 1 in the morning. I was also the guy who made most final decisions on what made it into the news pages of the paper and how it was played. That included choosing all the photos, from what our staff photographers offered to the wire services.
And what I learned was that the AP laserphotos got the job done, but their UPI counterparts tended to have a certain je ne sais quoi that made them special. This was due, as I recall it, to the fact that Reuters was included in the package. Those Reuters photogs really had an eye.
For that reason, one night when the UPI photo machine broke down, I spent an hour or two on the phone with a technician in Oklahoma City as he talked me through the steps to fix it (AP would have had someone in town, but UPI’s nearest office was in the next state).
This must have been a rare night when I was fully staffed, and therefore didn’t have to lay out the front page and oversee production of the A section myself. So I learned a new skill. This was an error that I committed over and over in my career — learning how to do something that no one else in the newsroom knew how to do. So whenever that machine broke down again — which it did frequently — I had to fix it if I wanted those excellent Reuters photos.
Anyway, I got to thinking about all that when I saw the above photo from the protests in Baton Rouge the other day.
It was special enough that The Washington Post did a whole separate story about this one Reuters photo:
Jonathan Bachman was snapping pictures of protesters yelling at the officers when he turned and saw her.
The woman in the summer dress didn’t seem to look at the two officers as they ran toward her. Instead, she seemed to look beyond them — even as they arrested her.
“She just stood there and made her stand,” the Reuters photographer told BuzzFeed. “I was just happy to be able to capture something like that.”
Bachman’s powerful photo quickly went viral….
Yeah, it’s good. Every other service got the obligatory photos of people being arrested and such, but Reuter’s Johathan Bachman got this. Good job.
Fortunately for the Eagle, they don’t need that old laserphoto machine anymore to get such shots. If not for the Web, they’d be in trouble, because the repairman is here in Columbia…