You only write about us when we provide the pictures
In 1977, I stood resplendent in my blue patterned, monogrammed leisure suit (made by my grandmother) in the front of St. Paul’s Catholic Church in Owosso, Mich., along with my fellow First Communion celebrants. The photographer asked us communicants whether we wanted a picture to be passed out to our families, or for the newspaper. We bellowed: “THE NEWSPAPER!”
After all, having a picture in your parents’ hands was all well and good. But being in the newspaper was validation, immortality, even if was only the Owosso Argus-Press. There we were, on page 2, to be cut out and put into scrapbooks. Who cared if our faces all were so small you couldn’t tell one kid from another? (Or one monogrammed leisure suit from another?)
I thought of this after seeing another note from a newspaper encouraging its readers to submit photos, particularly of youth sports, to be published or posted. In this case, it’s the Zanesville Times-Recorder in Zanesville, Ohio, known for being one of Forbes’ most vulnerable local economies, a stop on the Devil’s Highway, and home to the Institute for White Studies. The Times-Recorder posted its note Sunday asking readers to submit photos to be used for galleries of prom and youth spring sports.
As newspapers circle the financial drain, one of their Hail Marys (other than mixing metaphors) is to ask for reader-submitted content, which is free and an easy driver of visits to the paper’s web site, or sales of newspapers to the people whose friends and relatives are featured. It’s a test of how strong the brand name of a newspaper can be. You don’t need a local paper to get your kids’ volleyball photos online. You can start a blog, or a Flickr account. (And then have some smart-aleck blogger steal your kid’s photo off of Flickr because it’s not copyrighted material.)
Like this, for example.
But as anyone who works a newspaper sports desk can tell you, there are sports parents who are incessant about why the local paper isn’t giving full blanket coverage to their kid’s team or sport, and their kid. “You only cover us when we [insert very bad thing here]” is a sportswriters’ cliche for the grief they get from parents.
Why do parents or fans bother? Because having someone ELSE take or post your pictures is validation, immortality. Especially as there are a million places online to disseminate your sports photos and information, getting a call from someone else who wants to do so is much more meaningful. (Plus, if it’s the local newspaper, you can be pretty sure it’s not a pedophile heavily breathing for your prom or swimming photos.)
Newspapers such as the Zanesville Time-Recorder are counting on their established brand name and ability to grant validation, immortality, to get scads of photos, but more importantly to remind readers that if they want to be remembered, posting a photo to a Facebook page isn’t enough. (Oh, and maybe the sports staff can tell angry parents that there is a vehicle available to attract the attention of the college recruiters they believe search for talent only in local sports sections.)
An example that has nothing to do with youth sports: The Redwood City, Calif., Flickr Group is located in the center of Silicon Valley. And yet the members were besides themselves with excitement in 2006 when the local paper wrote a story about them.
Of course, this isn’t the paper sending a photographer out to shoot your kid’s fourth-grade basketball game, so it’s not like the barrier for entry is that high.
Still, even small children who never see a newspaper in the home, as well as their parents, families and friends, can get excited over getting a picture “in the paper.” Or should I say, in “THE NEWSPAPER!”