It's heaven for photojournalists
By Tayler Reviere Verninas
Photojournalism heaven is how this year’s Ernie Crisp Photographer of the Year described his workplace, WFAA, the ABC affiliate in Dallas.
“It truly is heaven for photojournalists,” said Brandon Mowry.
WFAA earned the Large Market Station of the Year award for the second year in a row from the National Press Photographers Association. Mowry and WFAA director of photography Andy Wallace credited and thanked their station’s news director and general manager for supporting their team.
“We have 100% backing to not only have the license to tell stories creatively, and at our own free will, but they back us 100% with the equipment that we want and need,” Wallace said. “And to break the mold to get weird. We don’t use the traditional on the shoulder camera. We use cinema cameras. We use FS5s with Rokinon prime lenses. It’s just so empowering to have a leader who believes in you 100% and proves it with recruitment and gear. And on a day-to-day involvement.”
Wallace believes WFAA is unique not only for the support in the newsroom among all positions but also the support from the station’s marketing and sales teams. He credited the win to the passion among all the teams.
“It’s the backing from everyone from the bottom up,” Wallace said. “Everyone wants to be there, [and] people are excited to be in that newsroom. It’s a really special place, and it’s a really exciting time to be at WFAA.”
The station appears to stray from the TV-broadcast status quo by hiring more reporters and photographers over multimedia journalists.
“We are consistently putting together four to five six-minute pieces and putting it as our lead,” Mowry said. “And our ratings are improving. It’s proof that storytelling is king. If you can do it well, people will watch, people will turn the channel.”
And that’s exactly what the viewers in Dallas are doing. The station’s rebrand began in September 2016, which included enhancing the visual presentation (i.e. storytelling). The audience of WFAA’s 10 p.m. newscast has grown by double-digit percentages. Viewers ages 18 to 49, the station has seen an increase of 54 percent. From May 2018 to 2019, viewership increased 75 percent among ages 25 to 34.
As director of photography, Wallace said he’s incredibly proud and honored to be a part of this team.
“I have a whole team that is just phenomenal,” Wallace said during the first NPPA West Coast Workshop awards ceremony in June in San Diego. “They work so hard; they stay late. It’s a thankless job, as a lot of people know, and these guys have such passion and drive to do what they do best, and they make me so proud.”
WFAA first won station of the year in 1983, and now it has back-to-back titles.
“I think we deserve it because we have the best staff in the country,” Mowry said.
Where else would the best staff want to work other than heaven? ■