Tuesday, October 17, 2017

SocietyMassCom: How Write a Photo Caption (W9-P4) Fa17

Photographers, especially photojournalist, may compose captions for their photographs.  Let's learn how to write a news photo caption.

Richard Lee Bland Newspaper Photo
They say that a picture is worth a thousand words.

If that is true for news photographs, then the caption (the verbal description) for the photograph, is like the lead to the thousand word story.

In a news article, the first few sentences of the story is the lead. The lead tells the reader the who, what, when, where, why and how of the story. Packed into the lead is quick overview of the whole news story.*

So, as Kobre' points out in his book, Photojournalism: The Professionals' Approach, a caption should tell the reader/viewer the who, what, when, where, why and how of the photograph.  The caption serves the same purpose as a lead in a written news story. [If your interest is specifically in photojournalism, I'd strongly recommend Kobre's book.]

The 5 W's and the H of a news story (or in this case, a news photograph):
  • Who - who is the news event about, who is in the photo?
  • What - what happened in the news event, what is happening in the photo?
  • When - when did the news event happen, when was the photo taken?
  • Where - where did the news event happen, where was the photo taken?
  • Why (1) - why did the news event happen, what happened that lead to the photograph, what happened before?
  • Why (2) - what is the significance of the news event, why is it important to us, what is going to happen after this event?
  • How - how did the event happen?

So, a lead in a written news story should answer the who, what, when, where and how of the new event and sometimes it'll address the why and how.

Now, if a caption of a news photograph is like the lead of a news story, then what does a caption include.

The Associated Press recommends a caption should contain two concise sentences. The first sentence of the caption should include the who, what, when and where.  The second sentence should provide the background information on the how and the why, especially the significance of the news event.

Tip: Start the first sentence with the most important thing to your audience.  If who is important, then start with who.  For example, if a celebrity is the who, then you'll probably want to start your sentence with that person's name. If the where is important, then start your first sentence with where.  For example, if a disease is breaking out is a certain area, then the location or where, is probably more important.

Check out AP's Top Photos of the Week page for current examples of news photographs and their captions. Hover the mouse over the photos to see the captions.  Do the AP photographers and photo editors practice what the AP style guidelines recommend?

Can you write a caption for a new photo?  Find some photos you know something about, perhaps from the AP link above or this link, and see if you can write a caption for the photo.  Practice. practice, practice.

* We're especially talking about hard news stories here.

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SocietyMassCom: How Write a News Story (W9-P3) Fa17

Let’s say you are working for the Associated Press.  You’ve been assigned your beat.  And, now have to write some news.  You have to help fill that news hole.

How to write that story?  What are the parts of a typical hard news story?
 What are the basic building blocks of a news story?

Building Blocks of Print News Story (Hard News Story)
  1. Headline (required)
    1. What is the story about?  The topic?
    2. Usually written by editor. 
    3. Secondary headlines
  2. Byline 
    1. Author's name
  3. Lead (required)
    1. Entices reader  
    2. Contain the 5 W’s & H    
    3. AKA Summary Lead  
  4. Backup for the Lead (required)
    1. Lead should be supported with facts, quotes, etc. that substantiate the lead.
    2. Lead Quote (optional, but helps)
      1. The first quote that backs up the lead.  
      2. Helps to use strongest quote available.
  5. Impact (almost always, in some form)
    1. How does this affect readers?
    2. Sometimes earlier in story.
    3. Also as a separate paragraph later.
  6. Background (needed in most)
    1. Additional background info may be needed. 
  7. Elaboration (required, if space allows)
    1. Multiple sources.  Other points of view.
  8. Ending (required)
    1. Further elaboration.
    2. Statement or quote that summarizes, but does not repeat previous info.
    3. Future action.

See if you spot some of the building blocks in the following story.

You may also want to check a local paper or a national paper to see if you spot the basic building blocks in their news stories.

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SocietyMassCom: The Other Fake News: VNRs and Native Advertising (W9-P2) Fa17

Fake news is not new.

While the term “fake news” can be traced back to the 1890s during the time of yellow journalism in U.S. newspapers of the 1890s.  This form of sensational journalism exaggerated and even fabricated parts or whole news stories.

The label “fake news” was also used over two decades ago to describe the use of video news releases in some local TV news casts.

We covered previously the relationship between the government and journalism.  Now let’s take a look at the relationship between journalism and business, specifically video news releases (VNRs).

Video News Releases (VNRs)

Watch the following clip from a local TV news cast.

When watching the above clip from a news broadcast what are your reasonable assumptions?  That the people interviewed are local people?  That this is a local story?  That the reporter did the interviews and wrote the story?  That this is real news?

Now, check out this next video which was written and produced by independent video company and funded by Quest Diagnostics, a company that runs lab testing centers around the U.S. where allergy testing is done. 

What did you notice?  What if you started both video clips at about the same time?  Try it. Start the bottom clip, wait a few seconds and start the top clip.  Notice any difference?

The second clip you saw is an example of what is called a video news release (some background).

Video news releases or VNRs are news "segments designed to be indistinguishable from independently-produced news reports that are distributed and promoted to television newsrooms" (SourceWatch).

Native Advertising

Like VNRs, the more recent appearance of native advertising, reveals yet another relationship between the news media and business of which the general public may not be aware. 

Native advertising: "a type of advertising, mostly online, that matches the form and function of the platform upon which it appears" (Wikipedia).

If you are interested in learning more about VNRs, check out the video and links found below.


KMSP-9 Helps Rev Up Convertible Sales

If you are interested, see another video comparing a local news cast with a VNR on YouTube or check out even more examples of VNRs and local news stories from PRWatch.

In the clip above, Pakman, mentions the FCC's sponsorship identification rules. Here is one rule/law.

"... the Communications Act of 1934, ... requires broadcasters to disclose to their listeners or viewers if matter has been aired in exchange for money, services or other valuable consideration. The announcement must be aired when the subject matter is broadcast. The Commission has adopted a rule, ... which sets forth the broadcasters' responsibilities to make this sponsorship identification" (FCC). 

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