News Archive

NPPA Calls Newsweek's Martha Stewart Cover "A Major Ethical Breach"

DURHAM, NC  – The National Press Photographers Association, the society of professional photojournalism, today said thatNewsweek magazine’s use of an altered photograph of Martha Stewart on its cover last week was “a major ethical breach.” Stewart’s head was superimposed upon the body of a model who was photographed separately in a Los Angeles studio, and the composite image was published on Newsweek’s cover.

“NPPA finds it a total breach of ethics and completely misleading to the public,” NPPA president Bob Gould said today. “The magazine’s claim that ‘there was a mention on Page 3 that it was an illustration’ is not a fair disclosure. The average reader isn’t going to know that it isn’t Martha Stewart’s body in the photograph. The public often distrusts the media and this just gives them one more reason. This type of practice erodes the credibility of all journalism, not just one publication.”

NPPA Ethics Committee chairperson John Long asks, “When will they ever learn? No amount of captioning can ever cover for a visual lie. If you respect the written word enough not to lie, then you should respect the image enough not to lie as well. If it looks real, then in a news context it better be real.”

“Readers aren’t stupid. They’re critical thinkers,” says Mike Longinow, a former newspaper reporter and photojournalist who now teaches reporting, editing, and photojournalism at Asbury College in Wilmore, KY. “And their belief in the credibility of print media has been slipping for some time in this country. Many don't believe what they read. And when they can't believe what they see, either, in the visuals that are intended to invite their reading, they'll vote with their feet. They'll turn away – and not just from Newsweek. They'll be turned off to publications that care about visual and written integrity. That’s what makes this case (not the first one in recent decades) so tragic.”

It’s been more than a decade since the controversy over the O.J. Simpson arrest story when Timemagazine admitted it had darkened the police booking mugshot of Simpson on its June 27, 1994, cover, while Newsweek ran the unaltered photo on its cover. “Photojournalism classes and workshops at NPPA, at the American Society of Newspaper Editors, and at Associated Press Managing Editors’ conventions have been posting images of the O.J. Simpson magazine covers for years as examples of what not to do,” said Longinow. “It's been a ‘never again’ kind of lesson that we, as faculty and not a few photography directors have tried to reinforce.

“We try to make the point that photojournalism is about truth. It's about reality. We tell our students to take their hands off the keyboards, put down the mouse, and listen. ‘Manipulation is easy,’ we tell them. ‘Storytelling with real truth behind it is not. Don't go with the easy fix. Be patient, be relentless, and the truth can be put in your publication.’ What Newsweek has done is pull the rug out from under all of that. And they've done it with a cover that seems to say, ‘What lesson?’”

“The best way to fight the continued erosion of trust in journalism as a profession is to maintain and promote the highest possible ethical standards,” says John B. (Jack) Zibluk, an associate professor of photojournalism at Arkansas State University. “That’s particularly important for our high-profile mainstream news outlets, like Newsweek, which attract the most and widest attention from the public as well as set examples and standards for other media outlets. When Newsweek used a ‘tabloid style’ representation of Martha Stewart on its cover, the magazine not only undermined the trust of the magazine's audience, it undermined journalism as a profession.

“This incident and other high-profile lapses of judgment by major media outlets recently illustrate the need for ethical education, for outreach and dialogue between media practitioners, professional organizations such as NPPA, educators, ethicists, and audience members to make an effort to rebuild trust, forge understanding, and strengthen the role of free, honest discourse and speech in our society.”

As a result of the Stewart cover, Newsweek editor Mark Whitaker changed the magazine’s byline and crediting policy. Bylines and illustration credit lines will now appear directly on the magazine’s cover instead of inside the magazine or in the table of contents. The week following the flap over the Stewart cover, Whitaker wrote about what happened and the ensuing policy change in his weekly column, “The Editor’s Desk”:

“Seeking an image that would capture our take on the story — that Martha Stewart is emerging from prison in a much stronger position than anyone expected — we asked artist Michael Elins to create a humorous photo illustration of Stewart coming back looking better than ever. We identified the result as a photo illustration on our table of contents, and thought the combination of exaggerated imagery and cover line ‘Martha's Last Laugh’ would make clear that it was playful visual commentary, not a real picture of Stewart or an attempt to simulate one. But we quickly realized that it wasn't obvious to many of you at all. For that, we sincerely apologize. We would never seek to deceive our readers and are committed to respecting the integrity of serious news photography. To avoid confusion in the future, starting this week we will identify the origin of our main cover image in a credit on the cover itself.”

“Newsweek’s new policy of putting a photo illustration credit on what appears to be a documentary photograph directly on the cover does not justify its deception. The Martha Stewart photograph on the Newsweek cover is a lie and it damages the credibility of our entire profession,” says Rich Beckman, head of the School of Journalism and Mass Communication’s visual communication program at the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill.

“I was particularly interested to see Newsweek editor Mark Whitaker’s quote in an online news story: ‘We're not going to make this particular mistake again,’ because Newsweek has previously been guilty of (digitally) straightening the teeth of Bobbi McCaughey (the mother of septuplets) in a photograph, and of publishing an image that appeared to show Dustin Hoffman and Tom Cruise standing side by side – even though the two pictures had been shot separately,” Beckman said.

“I wonder how many heads have to be attached (to other people’s bodies) before the industry learns its lesson. We've had the head of former Texas Governor Ann Richards placed on the body of a model sitting astride a motorcycle on the cover of Texas Monthly in July 1992, Oprah Winfrey's head placed on Ann Margaret's body on the cover of the August 26, 1989, issue of TV Guide, and in July 2003, Redbook published a cover photo of actress Julia Roberts that USA Today revealed to be a composite created by sticking the head of a year-old photograph of Roberts atop the body from a four-year-old photograph of her.”

“In my media ethics courses, I always bring up the deception used by TV Guide when they put Oprah Winfrey's head on Ann Margaret's body,” said Lee Anne Peck, an assistant professor of journalism and mass communications at the University of Northern Colorado. “The students are always properly outraged, and this example always leads to good class discussion about photo fakery: Is it enough for the publication to mention that the image is a ‘photo illustration’? Is it ever okay to do this? Is TV Guide really a ‘news’ publication? The discussion always boils down to the importance of telling the truth and to the importance of not manipulating the public – which is not socially responsible. How unfortunate that more than 15 years later, I have a new example (Newsweek) to use in class for this discussion.”

Zibluk says, “I find it very disconcerting that Newsweek's editors see ‘labeling’ as the answer to the issue. It's not. The real answer to rebuilding the trust of the audience is to commit to true and accurate photojournalism. The increasing use of staged photographs, montages, and assorted illustrations to illustrate news is a real problem. The tendency to use more illustrations and fewer real photojournalistic images is blurring the line between opinion and truth the same way Web blogs and talk radio are blurring the line between ‘honest news’ and one-sided screed.”

NPPA (, based in Durham, NC, is dedicated to the advancement of photojournalism, its creation, editing, and distribution, in all news media. NPPA’s mission statement and its newly revised Code of Ethics encourage photojournalists to reflect high standards of quality in their professional performance and in their personal practices.

For more information please contact NPPA president Bob Gould at [email protected] or NPPA Ethics Committee chairperson John Long at [email protected].


Marcus Bleasdale, Erika Schultz Are The 2005 Alexia Foundation Photography Grant Winners

Photojournalist Marcus Bleasdale of London, England, is the winner of the 2005 Alexia Competition for professionals, and NPPA member and photojournalism student Erika Schultz of Northern Arizona University is the student winner.

Photograph by Marcus BleasdaleBleasdale, a freelancer who represents himself, won the $15,000 Alexia Foundation Grant for his proposal on "the effects of oil exploration in a world where it is increasing the catalyst of conflict, exploitation, and global pollution." He's a 1990 graduate of the University of Huddersfield in England with a BA with honors in economics and finance, and in 1999 he received a postgraduate degree in photojournalism from the London College of Printing. His book, One Hundred Years of Darkness, published in 2002, was the result of four years spent covering the internal conflict and war in the Democratic Republic of Congo. The Alexia Foundation said there were 170 entries in the professional category this year which were narrowed down to nine finalists.

Schultz, the student winner and an NPPA member since 2003, is a college senior majoring in photojournalism at Northern Arizona University. She's also the assistant photography editor of the school newspaper, the Lumberjack. The Alexia Foundation Grant for first place for the student winner is a $9,000 scholarship toward tuition, fees, and living expenses to study photojournalism in London in the fall semester through the Syracuse University Division of International Programs Abroad. First places also carries with it a $1,000 grant for completing the proposed picture story, and a $500 award to the college department that sponsors the winning student's entry. Schultz won for her proposal to "explore the diversity and culture within modern society's growing elder population" as "science and sheer stubbornness propel today's senior citizens to an advanced old age."

Photograph by Erika SchultzJudging was done February 26 at Syracuse University by Bob Gilka, former National Geographic director of photography and adjunct professor of photojournalism at Syracuse University; Mark Edelson, presentation editor for The Palm Beach Post; and Vin Alabiso, president of The Visual Journalism Alliance and former Associated Press director of global business development for photography.

The Alexia Foundation for World Peace was established by the family of Alexia Tsairis, an honors photojournalism student at the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications at Syracuse University who was a victim of the terrorist bombing of Pan Am flight #103 over Lockerbie, Scotland, on December 21, 1988. She was returning home for the Christmas holidays after spending a semester at the Syracuse University London Centre. Alexi, known as a promising photojournalism student, had interned for the Associated Press in New York City and she was deeply committed to world peace, supporting the efforts of Amnesty International and Greenpeace. The annual photography grants to professionals and students are "dedicated to helping photographers produce pictures that promote world peace and cultural understanding."

The winners' portfolios can be seen on the Alexia Foundation Web site at


Call For Entries: 17th Annual Gordon Parks International Photography Competition

The 2005 Gordon Parks International Photo Competition has issued a call for entries for their 17th annual competition. The entry deadline is July 13, 2005. “The competition is open to both professional and amateur photographers around the world, and we accept color and black and white prints,” said Kari West, the contest coordinator at the Gordon Parks Center for Culture & Diversity at Fort Scott Community College in Fort Scott, KA.

“The 17th Annual Gordon Parks Photography Competition honors one of the world’s most famous photographers, Gordon Parks, who was born and raised in Fort Scott. This competition is open to any photographer, amateur or professional. Photographs submitted should reflect the important culture and diversity themes in the life and works of Gordon Parks,” West wrote.

The 2005 Gordon Parks Competition Finalists’ exhibit will hang from September 16 to October 14 at Fort Scott Community College. The contest is also part of the Second Annual Gordon Parks Celebration Of Culture and Diversity, which runs October 5-8 at the Center.

Each photographer may submit up to four photographs. Each photograph will be judged as an individual entry. No photo essays will be accepted. Digitally altered photos (any alteration that distorts the original image) will be disqualified.

For each photo entry there is a $15 fee. Photographers can enter up to four photographs. Checks or money orders (in U.S. funds) should be made payable to FSCC Endowment Association and should accompany the entries sent on disk or CD. The contest accepts Visa & Mastercard payments. All eMailed entries should have fees paid by July 13, 2005. All contest fees are non-refundable.

Photographs must be submitted on (either Mac or PC) 3.5 disks, CDs, CD-RWs, or via eMail to [email protected] All files must be JPEG in format. (If eMailed limit file size to less than 3MB.)No slides or actual photos will be allowed. Keep a copy of your entry for your records, we will NOT return any entries. If you wish to receive confirmation on e-mail entries, request it in your original message. File Names should match the name of the entry.

West says to include this information on the CD, disk, or with your eMail attachment:

1. Title of the Photograph
2. Your Name
3. Your Current Address, including zip code
4. A Current Phone number
5. A working eMail address

Photographers are encouraged to submit captions with their work. The captions should include the title of work, the photographer’s name, and the file name. Limit captions to 50 words or less.

The last day that photos and entry fees will be accepted for the competition is Wednesday, July 13,2005. (All entries must be postmarked by that date.)

The Entry Form for the competition can be downloaded here as an Acrobat .PDF file. The entry form is on the last page of the .PDF file. Additional information can be found at under "Special Events."

Preliminary judging will be completed using the files as they were originally submitted. The jury will select the images to be included in the final judging. Photographers whose entries are selected as finalists will be required to submit matted prints for the final judging. Finalists will be notified by phone or eMail.


Palm Beach Post Wins Gold Honors In 2004 Picture Editing Quarterly Clip Contest

Alex Burrows, in his last announcement of NPPA Picture Editing Quarterly Clip Contest (PEQCC) annual winners after ten years of chairing the contest, announced that The Palm Beach Post photography editing team won the top Gold honor in the 2004 editing competition. The Post amassed 790 points during 2004. Silver honor went to The Hartford Courant with 540 points, and Bronze honor to The Virginian-Pilotwith 250 points.

“Congratulations toThe Post,” Burrows said. “This is a year-long competition and involves judging at the end of each quarter. More than 20 judges from different newspapers, magazines, and universities participated. Congratulations to all the teams in the top ten, and thanks to all who participated.” Winners are chosen by giving point value to newspaper pages in top entries in five categories of news, sports, feature, picture page and multi-page.

Awards Of Excellence went to the newspaper picture editing teams who rounded out the top ten finishers. Those newspapers are:The San Jose Mercury News, 160 points;The Raleigh News & Observer, 140 points;Los Angeles Times, 130 points;The Rocky Mountain News, 110 points;The Star Tribune, 100 points;The Sacramento Bee, 90 points; andThe Record(Bergen County, NJ), 60 points.

Burrows, director of photography forThe Virginian-Pilot, stepped down as the contest’s chairperson after ten years of working as a volunteer organizing the PEQCC. In March, NPPA president Bob Gould appointed Mark Edelson, presentation editor forThe Palm Beach Post, to fill the position.

“We work really hard to craft a strong visual report of the news, whether its the war in Iraq or a high school track meet,” Edelson said after Burrows announced the winners. “We’ve got a long way to go before we really get it right, but we’re making an effort to nurture the creative relationships among editors, designers, reporters and photographers that make for better storytelling.” Two ofThe Post’swinning pages, “Daddy’s Little Girls” and “The Athens Olympics,” were done by turning the broadsheet newspaper sideways in the design.

“We experienced a horrendous hurricane season, andThe Post’sstorm coverage garnered a number of awards. What was most gratifying, however, is that the majority of pages that earned recognition in the contest involved coverage of other events, ranging from a father and daughter dance, to the Olympics, to Shaquille O’Neill’s signing with the Miami Heat. It’s encouraging that our peers felt we served our readers well not only during crises, but every day.”

When he was named as the contest’s new chairperson in March, Edelson said, “I urge you to enter. This is a national contest and winning is good for you and it’s good for your newspaper. It will help you and your department gain respect in your newsroom, and it will bring your newspaper to the attention of other journalists and journalism students, and perhaps interest them in working with or for you. And if you can attract more good people it will better your paper and reward your readership.”

Please send 2005 PEQCC entries to: Mark Edelson, Presentation Editor,The Palm Beach Post, 2751 South Dixie Highway, West Palm Beach, FL, 33405. Please send questions to[email protected].


Michael Maicher, 78, NPPA Life Member

Funeral services are tomorrow in Pennsylvania for NPPA life member Michael Maicher, 78, who died Tuesday in Wyndmoor, PA. A freelancer and sports photographer who was working on assignment as recently as two weeks ago, Maicher was a sports photographer for the Philadelphia

Evening Bulletinand also had photographed the Philadelphia 76ers NBA team, the Philadelphia Eagles NFL team, and Temple University football.

Maicher joined NPPA in April, 1975. ThePhiladelphia Daily Newsreports that Maicher may have established a record by photographing the Penn Relays for 47 straight years. His career started at theGermantown Courierand he joined theBulletinin 1960, shooting general assignments but specializing in sports. When theBulletinclosed in 1982 he worked for the 76ers and La Salle High School, theDaily Newsreports.

A Maicher photograph of the late Philadelphia mayor Frank Rizzo was used as the visual source for a well-known statue of Rizzo that sits before the city’s munical building.

He is survived by a sister, Blance Bianconi. Services are Saturday, February 19, 2005, at Seven Dolors Church, Willow Grove Ave., Wyndmoor, PA. Friends may call at 9 a.m.


First Annual Agency VII Seminar Set For April

The photographers of the Agency VII will put on the First Annual VII Seminar on April 16 and 17 2005 at the Cabot Intercultural Center Auditorium at the Fletcher School of Tufts University in Medford, MA. The first-time event is in collaboration with EXPOSURE, The Center for Photojournalism, Documentary Studies and Human Rights, The Institute for Global Leadership, Tufts University, and Canon USA.

Agency VII group photoThe two-day event will include presentations by all 9 photographers of Agency VII, panel discussions on photojournalism’s current issues, guest lecturers, and a screening of the film, “War Photographer.” Pre-registration is required and registration for the event is done online on the Agency VII Web site. There is a $25 USD processing fee for registration.

The event opens Saturday with Ron Haviv’s presentation, “Images of War, 1989-2003,” and Christopher Morris presents “My America.” Before the mid-day break, Joachim Ladefoged will present his work followed by John Stanmeyer’s “Tsunami.” Peter Howe will moderate a symposium to open the afternoon session with all the VII photographers as panelists on the topic, “Is Anyone Out There Listening? The Relevance Of Photojournalism Today.”

Lauren Greenfield and James Nachtwey will present their work following the symposium, and after a reception hosted by Canon USA there will be a screening of the film, “War Photographer.”

Sunday’s schedule opens with Susan Moeller, a photojournalist who is now an assistant professor of journalism at the Philip Merrill College of Journalism at the University of Maryland, who will moderate a symposium on “Photojournalism and Human Rights.” She will be joined by a panel that includes selected VII photographers along with Samantha Power, a journalist, lawyer, and human rights activist who is an adjunct lecturer in public policy at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University, and Hurst Hannum, a professor of international law at The Fletcher School of Tufts University.

Gary Knight will then present his work “Evidence,” followed by a presentation by Alexandra Boulat. Antonin Kratochvil will present “Vanishing,” and then there will be three breakout discussions with VII photographers. The afternoon concludes with a Canon digital demonstration followed by a book signing by the Agency VII photographers.

For more information please see the Agency VII Web site page that is dedicated to the Seminar. The page includes online registration, maps, and contact information for hotels located close to the event.


UNC Multimedia Bootcamp Is A Hands-On Experience

The fourth annual Multimedia Bootcamp, a six-day intensive course in audio, video, and Flash Web development, will be held May 7-13 2005 at the School of Journalism and Mass Communication at the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill, NC.

The workshop features presentations by leading producers from The New York Times, The Washington Post, MSNBC, USA Today, the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, and The Poynter Institute for Media Studies. The sessions will feature detailed instruction in multimedia storytelling. Classroom sessions taught by leading professionals include audio and video storytelling and editing, advanced Adobe PhotoShop techniques, Web design and usability, and Flash techniques for journalists. The workshop is limited to 20 participants on a first-come basis.

The Bootcamp will open on Saturday evening, May 7, with a traditional North Carolina barbecue followed by a presentation by Howard Finnberg, "The Future is Here… It’s Just Not Widely Distributed." Finnberg currently directs News University, the Poynter Institute’s e-learning project. He has more than 30 years of experience in journalism and new media at the Chicago Tribune, The New York Times, the San Francisco Chronicle, The Arizona Republic, as well as consulting on issues of new media and technologies.

On Sunday through Friday, hands-on classes meet throughout the day in the School’s state-of-the-art multimedia lab. Each student will have an Apple G5 workstation and access to digital audio and video content gathering and editing hardware. The classes include lectures, demonstrations and hands-on exercises, and are taught by some of the leading multimedia journalism practitioners and educators in the industry.

Each day, the classes break from noon to 2 p.m. for a catered lunch and a presentation by a leading practitioner. The speakers include: Juan Thomassie, senior designer, USA Today; Don Wittekind, graphics director, South Florida Sun-Sentinel; Tom Kennedy, managing editor for multimedia,; Geoff McGhee, enterprise editor,; and Ashley Wells, senior producer, MSNBC.

The workshop is open to anyone who has an interest in multimedia storytelling. Because of the large number of faculty members and the limited enrollment, participants work at their own pace and receive as much personal attention as needed. Participants work on individual and team projects and the faculty is readily available to answer questions. All class sessions also include detailed handouts that will be invaluable for taking lessons back to individual newsrooms.

For more information and registration materials please see or contact UNC professor Rich Beckman [email protected] for details.


Brenda Ann Kenneally Wins The 2005 NPPA-Nikon Documentary Sabbatical Grant

By Donald R. Winslow 
News Photographer magazine

Brenda Ann Kenneally, a freelance photojournalist from Brooklyn, NY, is the winner of the 2005 NPPA-Nikon Documentary Sabbatical Grant, committee chairman Bill Luster announced today. Kenneally’s ongoing essay, “Legal Guardian: The Long Arm of the Law Reaches Inside America's Most Vulnerable Families,” won over 36 other entries. Matt Black, a freelance photojournalist from Lemoncove, CA, was the runner-up.

Kenneally is the first two-time winner of the honor. She also won in 2000 for "Money, Power, Respect: Real Life Stories from the Hip-Hop Generation,'' about the legacy of drug use from generation to generation in her Bedford Stuyvesant neighborhood in Brooklyn.

“This grant means that I can continue to be a photographer for another year!” Kenneally told News Photographer magazine today. “It means I can keep working. I’ve been walking around saying that I would quit my job, if I only had one! No, really, it’s harder now than ever to do these kind of long-term projects, especially one based in America. It’s a time when we’re turning our interests to other countries, like Iraq and the war, and away from this kind of story that used to be a mainstream story here in the States. So now I can keep working on it for another year.”

The Sabbatical comes with a $15,000 stipend so that working photographers can afford to take time to work on their essay unencumbered by daily assignments.

“Brenda's work is very fascinating and indicative of the commitment of a concerned photographer, one who not only cares deeply about her work but also about her subjects,” Luster said. “She’s first class in every way."

"The final two entries, Brenda's work and that of Matt Black, the runner-up, were tough choices for the judges. The judges felt that Brenda's work was very intimate, and that carried the day,” Luster said.

Judging was done in Washington, DC, on February 5 at the offices of U.S. News & World Reportmagazine. The judges were Kathy Moran, an illustrations editor at National Geographic magazine; David Griffin, former creative director ofU.S. News & World Report who is now the senior editor of photography and illustrations for National Geographic magazine; and Todd James, an illustrations editor at National Geographic magazine.

About Kenneally’s essay, Moran said "It's so rare to find anyone that engages that much with the subject. This entry is total immersion." James agreed. “This is a level of intimacy and commitment to documentary photojournalism that one does not see often.”

Nikon, along with the National Press Photographers Association, created the award in 1985. It was first won by photojournalist April Saul of The Philadelphia Inquirer. Over the years two winners have gone on to win the Pulitzer Prize: John Kaplan's project, which showed the diversity of lifestyles among 21-year-olds in transition to the adult world, won the 1992 Pulitzer Prize for feature photography; and David Peterson’s essay “Shattered Dreams – The Iowa Farm Crisis” for The Des Moines Registerwon the 1987 Pulitzer Prize for feature photography. Both essays resulted from their ongoing work after receiving the NPPA-Nikon Documentary Sabbatical Grant.

“I’d like to thank everyone at Corbis and especially Brian Storm, Maria Mann, and Christina Cahill," Kenneally said today. "And also to thank Kathy Ryan at The New York Times Magazine who initially gave me the assignment for the first family, and writer Adrian Nicole LeBlanc, author of the book Random Family, who wrote the Times magazine story.”

Kenneally was a Soros Criminal Justice Media Fellow, and she attended the University of Miami where she earned a BS in sociology and photojournalism. She also has an MA in studio art from New York University. Her work has been featured in The New York Times Magazine, Rolling Stone, and Ms. magazine, among other publications.

In 2000 she won the NPPA-University of Missouri POY Community Awareness Award and in 2001 she was awarded the International Prize for Photojournalism in Gijon, Spain. Her essay on her Brooklyn neighborhood has also received the support of the W. Eugene Smith Memorial Fund, the Mother Jones Documentary Fund, and the Open Society Institute.

Last year's winner was Felicia Webb, a United Kingdom freelancer associated with the Independent Photographers Group agency (IPG), for her project "Fat Times in the USA." Webb was the first non-American to win the sabbatical. The 2003 winner was Jon Lowenstein for his project "From Guerrero to Gringolandia and Back: Day Labor, Family, and the New Global Economy." Lowenstein, who lives in Chicago, IL, specializes in long-term, in-depth documentary photographic projects which strive to challenge the status quo.


Houston Chronicle's Kerwin Plevka, 54, Found Dead At His Home On Friday

By Donald R. Winslow 
News Photographer magazine

HOUSTON, TX  – Kerwin Plevka, 54, the assistant director of photography for theHouston Chronicle, was found dead in his home late yesterday afternoon. The staff learned of Plevka’s death from the newspaper’s executive vice president and editor, Jeff Cohen, after their long-time coworker uncharacteristically failed to show up at the office on Friday and did not answer his phone.

Kerwin Plevka photographCohen told the staff that assistant managing editor for graphics Ernie Williamson asked a police officer to go by Plevka’s house to check on him and that’s when he was found dead. A Harris County sheriff’s deputy at the scene told the newspaper that there were no signs of trauma and that the medical investigator would inspect the scene. A cause of death has not been determined.

“I’ll remember Kerwin as someone who elevated the visual journalism of the newspaper,” Cohen wrote in a note to the staff. “He went out of his way to help everyone around him – editors, photographers, page designers. On top of that, he was a damn nice guy. We’ll miss him.”

Houston-based sports photojournalist Robert Seale, who shoots forSporting News, wrote on the Web site, “Kerwin won many awards during his career and was well liked by all who had the pleasure of working with him, shooting alongside him, or having an after-work beer or motorcycle ride with him.”

Seale toldNews Photographermagazine tonight, “I was an intern at theChroniclein 1992 and Kerwin took me under his wing. He took care of me and he taught me how to shoot baseball. He used to enjoy telling me a story about when he was a United Press International stringer back in Kansas and, at some point, someone took him to a world series game and put him in the first base pit next to the great baseball shooter Rusty Kennedy, who was shooting for the Associated Press. Kerwin said it was a make-or-break moment for him, but he did okay that day and ended up getting the UPI job.”

Chroniclestaff photojournalist Karen Warren worked with Plevka and tonight she said, “He always brought an air of professionalism to everything he did. They broke the mold with Kerwin. He was a fabulous guy, a lot of fun to be around, and before he was our assistant director of photography we shot together all the time and he was fun and intense.” As a photographer Plevka won many awards, including a 1999 National Headliner Award for a picture of a bar boxer taking a last drag off a cigarette while the referee inspected his boxing gloves at the start of the match (photograph at bottom of page). He also won Texas Associated Press Managing Editor Awards, and has a photograph in the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, NY.

“A few weeks ago he went to great pains to throw a birthday party at the house for his daughter, Olivia, 15, who's a freshman in high school,” Warren said. “He just doted on her, she lives with her mom but he wanted to have this great party for her. He was talking about how much he spent on this huge cake and what fun it was.”

In addition to his daughter he is survived by his mother, Eileen, of Belleville, KS; his former wife, Ingrid; and his brother, John Plevka, who is the associate managing editor for news at thePeoria Journal Starin Peoria, IL.

“Kerwin was into his Harley motorcycles,” Warren said, “and he belonged to a club and went on weekend rides. A couple of years ago he took two weeks of vacation and rode up to Kansas, where he’s from, to see his mother, and then rode back. And he was also into astronomy, and he had a camera connected to a telescope and he loved doing that too.”

Plevka was a Kansas State University graduate who was a newspaper photographer in Missouri working for theBlue Springs Examinerand theIndependence Examiner, as well as theWestport Truckermagazine. He also worked for UPI in Kansas City, MO, and later in Dallas before moving to theChroniclein 1987. He photographed baseball legend Nolan Ryan delivering his 5,000th career strikeout pitch of his career against batter Rickey Henderson of the Oakland A’s on August 22, 1989, in Arlington Stadium.

In 1993, Plevka and Associated Press photographer Rick Bowmer were arrested and held at gunpoint face-down, their film confiscated, by Texas state troopers near the scene of the Branch Davidian cult compound in Waco, TX, a few days after the compound’s fire killed 85 cult members. Plevka and Bowmer were trying to walk in closer for a better vantage point,Chroniclereporter Paul McKay wrote the next day, and the duo thought they were much farther away from the site than they were. But when they walked out of the woods, they were about a half-mile to a mile away, Plevka said. The two photographers were charged with "interfering with the duties of a peace officer," a misdemeanor, and booked into McLennan County Jail.

Eight years later Plevka was nearly killed when he was swept away by storm water on his own street after covering the aftermath of Tropical Storm Allison in 2001.Chroniclereporter Allan Turner wrote on July 14 that Plevka was headed home around 3 a.m. after working all night shooting storm damage when his sport utility vehicle’s engine died while crossing through hubcap-deep water. Plevka grabbed his camera bag and got out, starting to walk home. He apparently fell, and with the heavy bag being swept along with him by the fast-moving water he became trapped neck-deep in a drainage ditch. He had to let go of the bag, filled with his cameras and lenses and all of his day’s work, and cling to a tree for more than an hour while he waited for rescue and as the water continued to rise.

Turner reported that a passing motorist heard Plevka’s calls for help and, using a ski rope, pulled him to safety. Twenty-two people died in Southeast Texas during Tropical Storm Allison’s rampage, but Plevka narrowly escaped being one of them.

There will be a memorial service on Wednesday, February 16, at 2 p.m. at the Calvary Hill Cemetery and Funeral Home, 21723 Aldine Westfield Road, Humble, TX. A second memorial service will be held in Belleville, KS, at the United Presbyterian Church at 2 p.m. on Saturday, February 19, with the family meeting with friends one hour before the service.


Best Of Photojournalism 2005 Still Photography Judges Named

DURHAM, NC – Harry Walker, chairperson of the Best Of Photojournalism 2005 contest committee for the National Press Photographers Association and director of the Knight Ridder/Tribune Photo Service, today announced the panel of judges for this year's Best Of Photojournalism still photography contest.

The judges this year are Victor Vaughan, assistant managing editor for presentation for The Arizona Daily Star; Gary Hershorn, news editor for pictures, the Americas, for Reuters based in Washington, DC; Bonnie Jo Mount, deputy managing editor for presentation and online for the News & Observer in Raleigh, NC; Hal Buell, retired chief editor for photography for the Associated Press; and Ruth Fremson, a staff photographer for The New York Times.

The Best Of Photojournalism contest committee that Walker leads has as its members Joe Elbert, the assistant managing editor for photography for The Washington Post; Kenneth F. Irby, the visual journalism group leader for The Poynter Institute for Media Studies in Saint Petersburg, FL; and Terry E. Eiler, director of the School of Visual Communication (VisCom) at Ohio University in Athens, OH.

Today was the last day photographers could enter Best Of Photojournalism 2005. Still photography and Web site judging will take place at the Poynter Institute for Media Studies in Saint Petersburg, FL, from March 20 through 25, 2005. Photo editing judging will take place at the School of Visual Communication (VisCom) at Ohio University in Athens, OH. Television judging begins on March 13.

Best Of Photojournalism 2005 picture editing judges and television judges will be announced shortly.