Above, News Photographer magazines since August 2018. The two black and white copies (with white borders) represent the issues produced as interactive PDFs and can be found online at nppa.org/news-photographer-magazine-content with this issue. Photo by Sue Morrow
Change is the only constant. That's not a bad thing.
By Sue Morrow, Editor, News Photographer Magazine
This is the last time News Photographer will look like a traditional print magazine.
I can’t believe I am the one to write those words. As an NPPA student member in the 1980s, this magazine was the lifeline to those of us beginning our careers. Jim Gordon, the editor for 25 years, would stop through Indiana University’s Ernie Pyle Hall sporting his signature handlebar mustache. He was kind and encouraged all of us. For me, Jim set the bar of dedication for our members via the magazine. I think he would find this a sad column to read as much as I do to write. But I think Jim and my other predecessors would also support the next evolution of the magazine as it becomes a digital-only publication. There are more details about this further down.
I’m not going to lie. This change is extremely difficult for me. The joy I derive from placing pictures on pages and designing how each image works with the next, the impact of typography, and the words that are the glue, is not the same process (for me) on a website. The experience of holding it in your hands and then keeping it on a bookshelf (many members have complete collections of News Photographer) will be lost. I am mourning this change. But we move forward and News Photographer is not going away!
The pandemic made the last 12 months hell on wheels for everyone, which forced us to cease printing as a cost-cutting measure. The last magazine we printed was the special COVID-19 2020 May/June issue. But the magazine has continued to be produced bi-monthly and posted online as interactive PDFs. I am particularly proud of the COVID issue and the 2020 July/August magazine featuring coverage of George Floyd’s murder and civil unrest.
Thanks to Sony’s generous sponsorship, the Best of Photojournalism special issue was printed in November/December. We plan to make BOP an annual book that represents all award winners. That is significant and something to look forward to.
The NPPA is going through a lot of change and the feeling is positive as we emerge on the other side of this wretched pandemic.
Our new president, Katie Schoolov, maps out active and productive goals in her column (above). Katie brings incredible energy to the NPPA. She writes about changes that make sense for this venerable organization to provide even more benefits to members during times of stress and uncertainty.
This issue was coming together nicely with pandemic stories and wildfire coverage when January 6, 2021, in Washington, D.C. became world news. Coverage of that day and the presidential inauguration had to be represented. I started reaching out to people and collecting pictures. Oliver Janney curated the special report “14 Days in January” that is represented over 46 pages. I decided that a deadline wasn’t as important as making this issue the best it could be. It deserved to be historical.
On the heels of Jan. 6, the executive committee asked me to write a new job description: What would this magazine editor’s job look like in a digital environment?
In the throes of changing up this issue to reflect the monumental news, I slammed on the brakes.
I gasped. I panicked. I took a few long walks. And then got back to work.
I first thought of you, the NPPA members.
To better understand what you need from a digital “zine”, there will be a survey coming soon. Please, please, please participate. What you tell us will help guide me and the organization to make NP digital successful. Please email me at [email protected] with comments and/or ideas.
I believe a robust digital zine hinges on a solid website. We are addressing this via a small research team. And I will be exploring ways to dynamically present magazine content in a digital environment.
Meanwhile, I’m a firm believer in working with what you’ve got. You will see magazine content posted to the website in the same same location as past issues as stories roll out over the following months. Expect the stories and columns you have enjoyed to appear but not within the bi-monthly publication time frame. There are already a few really good stories waiting for me to edit.
Over time, additional stories, organization news and, hopefully, podcasts will develop to create more active and shareable experiences.
With the terrific help and enthusiasm of our new social media director, Robin Nathan, Katherine Gilyard’s commitment to @NPPA on Instagram, and Melissa Lyttle’s dedication to creating our weekly email newsletter, our social sphere and resources continue to grow.
I set high expectations when taking on anything of importance. It’s a blessing and curse. I will give this transition my best efforts to live up to the legacy of a publication that has meant so much to thousands of photojournalists since 1946. I want NP to establish itself by the same means in a digital environment. This is an exciting new path for me and a solid plan for the organization.
It means the world to me to be the editor of this venerable magazine. I hope that my predecessors have been proud of the issues since I took the helm in August 2018. It really has been a position of honor.
I lost my mom on February 5. Mary Morrow was 103. Her mind was clear but her body was tired as she removed the oxygen tube from her face and hung it over the bed rail. She called it. She died 10 minutes later.
I knew the day would come and thought I was prepared. I was not. Who is? Grief is an odd thing. It comes in waves when you least expect it and it will knock you on your ass. I am grateful to my NPPA colleagues and friends for being exceptionally patient with me during this time.
My mom, pictured here at 99, loved this magazine. She shared it with others when I’d mail her a copy. She never needed to adapt to the internet so the last magazine she saw was the May/June COVID issue with a black and white cover photograph by Peter Turnley. I think it helped her understand what was going on in the world.
I don’t think she really understood what my day-to-day life as a picture editor entailed over the decades, but she saved all my clips and cheered me on. The phone calls that started out, “I’m moving to _____ ...” were always met with encouragement and a little bit of trepidation for me.
Mom bought me my first film camera – a Pentax K-1000. She still carried a point-and-shoot with thousands of pictures on the tiny SD card. That’s as digital as she got. She wasn’t a photographer. She was Mary who naturally made pictures of her family, pets, friends and holidays for photo albums with her Kodak Instamatic.
But her intuitive documentary nature clearly made an impact on me. We always had Life and Look magazines around the house. Yeah, the ones with Margaret Bourke-White, Eugene Smith, Capa, Duncan, Burrows and Gordon Parks. Classics.
I honor my mother with this final News Photographer magazine format that you are reading on a device of your choosing. It’s packed with incredible historical work by individuals who are full-on dedicated to what we do. I am proud of it because it reaches the expectations I have always worked toward. I hope you think so, too.
See you soon on the (fully) digital side. ■
Sue Morrow can be reached at [email protected]. She has been an NPPA member since 1986.