Best Of Photojournalism 2004 Picture Editing Contest Results Announced

By Stan Alost

Entries in the Best Of Photojournalism 2004 Picture Editing contest were judged at the Ohio University School of Visual Communication by three judges, several alternates, assisted by a team of OU volunteer students. They sifted through more than 1,400 entries and what they found among the magazines and newspapers, in addition to the winners, was an abundance of good work. "What impressed me overall about the editing division was that good photography, and in cases great photography, existed in every circulation division," recalled judge George Olson. "And in some of the biggest winners were smaller papers."

The Individual Newspaper Picture Editor of the Year is Bruce Moyer, of The Hartford Courant. Second is Mark Edelson, The Palm Beach Post, and third is Tim Rasmussen, of The South Florida Sun-Sentinel. Awards of Excellence went to Dan Habib, of The Concord Monitor, and Brian Masck, of The Flint Journal.

The Team Newspaper Picture Editing Award went to the Los Angeles Times. Second is The Hartford Courant, and third is The Palm Beach Post. Awards of Excellence went to The Herald, of Jasper, IN, and The Spokesman Review.

The Magazine Picture Editor of the Year is Maryanne Golon, of Time Magazine. Second is James K. Colton, of Sports Illustrated, andthird is Carol Nakagawa, of The Seattle Times Pacific Northwest Magazine.

Best Use Of Photography in newspapers with circulation of 75,000 and over was awarded to The Hartford Courant. Second is The Spokesman Review, and third is The Virginian-Pilot. Awards of Excellence went to The Plain Dealer, and to The Detroit Free Press.

Best Use Of Photography in newspapers with circulation of 75,000 or less was awarded to The Howard County Times. Second isThe Albuquerque Tribune, and third is Education Week. Awards of Excellence went to The Concord Monitor, and to The Herald, of Jasper, IN.

Best Use Of Photography in a magazine went to Time Magazine. Second is also Time, and third is Newsweek. An Award of Excellence went to The Seattle Times Pacific Northwest Magazine.

The judges were Thea Breite, of the Boston Globe; Mark Edelson, of the Palm Beach Post; and George Olson, of Sunset magazine. The alternate judges included Bruce Strong, Larry Lambert, Marcy Nighswander and Larry Nighswander. The alternates stepped in when any of the judges had an entry, or a competitor's entry, under consideration.

"We did see a good number of effectively told picture stories (not all won awards - contests have their limits) and that's a good sign," observed Edelson. "It seems the shrinking news hole is not necessarily killing off the opportunity to deal with subjects in breadth, if not always depth." On the other hand, the judges noticed the sameness among many of the entries.

"It's always a battle to convince editors that surprising readers won't automatically chase them away; that in fact taking new or unusual approaches might actually excite them," Edelson said. "Unfortunately we didn't see much of that."

What did become evident was the thoroughness of the judge's consideration. From the first category to the last, they methodically examined entries, looked at each image, read text, and discussed at length how effective the presentation was for readers. "Watching and listening to the judges dissect each layout, and scrutinize every photo was incredible," said Ohio University graduate student and volunteer Erin Fredrichs. "I was able to see the standards for excellence in photojournalism being set."

Yet, the contest wasn't without hitches. Now in its third year, the contest is still feeling growing pains.

Confusion over entry preparation meant some entries were submitted in tear sheet and digital format, some only as tear sheets, and some only in digital form. In the end, no entries were excluded. The judges viewed tear sheets when possible and digital form only when there was no other choice.

All of the judges indicated that the contest would be better if entries were tear sheets only. Trying to read and maneuver through PDF's was laborious at best. Unlike viewing images digitally, the editing division entails reading captions and text to better understand the stories and evaluate the images. Scrolling through PDF's, and in some cases files with not enough resolution to read the text, was ineffective. More importantly, the judges agreed, the contest is about what the reader saw.

"The spirit of the competition is to judge the editing and presentation in final publication form, at the reader saw it," Edelson stated. "So looking at the real paper is preferable. In any case, it should be either/or. The combination (of tear sheets and PDF's) makes the playing field unequal and annoying."

There were other ideas: have fewer categories; drop the individual editing category; and clarify some of the categories. Each of the suggestions has been passed on to BOP contest chair Harry Walker and the BOP contest committee. Even with the minor hiccups, the entries garnered admiration.

"I couldn't help but be aware that at the top levels of competition, the editing and use of photography was so powerful and effective that papers were simply neck and neck at the finish. That's a good sign for both the photographers and the readers," said Olson.