One weekend, two photos and a reminder why the best pictures are the ones of the crowd

On a Saturday afternoon at 3pm, all eyes tend to be on the pitch, watching the 22 players battle it out for three points, marshalled by three men in black.

But two pictures caught my eye over the weekend which served as a reminder that it’s perhaps just as important to keep an eye on the thousands – maybe tens of thousands – in the stands.

In a world where every goal, tackle and red card is shown around the globe in seconds – either legally or illegally – the job of the reporter has changed. For the regional press, so long THE source of information on the football club, the role has changed too.

Getting closer to the fans is more important than ever before, and that means making them part of the coverage. It doesn’t mean being led by the extreme voices or reacting to every allegation of bias, because that way lies madness.

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If there’s one idea every editor should nick and copy next year, it’s this one from the Birmingham Post…

The old Odeon cinema in Birmingham

Late last year, the Birmingham Post came up with what I think is one of the cleverest features to be invented by a local news brand in a long time.

‘Hidden Spaces’ was a photographic project which showed people hidden corners of Birmingham, arranging access to places which were off-limits to the public.

It was produced as two print supplements, shared on its app as a special edition, and turned into a section on the Birmingham Post website too.

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Remembering the fallen, 100 years on: How regional newspapers marked the anniversary of the First World War

A graphic used by Trinity Mirror’s regional titles on Twitter and Facebook to mark the 100th anniversary of the First World War

As any photographer will tell you, the right picture will speak many more than just 1,000 words. Today was one of those days when the right picture would do just that – remembering the 100th anniversary of Britain’s entry into ‘The Great War.’

Perhaps the most special thing printed newspapers can do which their digital versions are yet to be known for is summing up an opinion, mood or moment in time with a design which lives long in the memory.

Many regional newspapers in England and Wales today demonstrated that with a remarkable collection of front pages, some of which I have put together in the gallery below:

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Sharing the joy and setting the standard: The strange serendipity between UGC and professional photography

In 2012, Liverpool hosted Royal de Luxe, a French street theatre company who bring huge marionettes to town for remarkable city centre-wide performances. It was a huge hit, attracting hundreds of thousands of people to the city. Here’s one of the Liverpool Echo’s most memorable (to me) pictures of the event in 2012:

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A fantastic spectacle, and if you look at the crowds, you can see plenty of smartphones in action – but I think it’s still safe to say most people are watching it with their own eyes directly, rather than via the screen of their iphone.

Now here’s a picture from last weekend, when the Giants returned to Liverpool for a spectacle which attracted even more people (but remarkably still managed to catch the local train operators off guard!)

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Why the right image is more important than ever to regional journalism … thanks to Facebook

Last week, Facebook announced a new change to the way it will treat posts to Facebook pages. Based on its research of millions of users, it’s discovered that people are more likely to respond to text updates from their friends, but are less likely to respond to text-only updates from pages they’ve chosen to follow.

For journalists who monitor what works and what doesn’t on social media, this will hardly be news – it’s all about capturing the attention of someone as they skim through their Facebook newsfeed, hopefully enough to they’ll click a link, or comment, which in turn increases the chance of it appearing in other peoples’ newsfeeds more prominently too.

The fact that Facebook is responding to that user behaviour is very important though – and is another example of why photography is so important to online journalism.

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The 12 Days of Local Pressmasness: 8 New Year celebrations

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Photographers will go to remarkable lengths – or many will – to get a great picture. There are many who said that the art of photography in newsrooms was dead when newspapers began appealing for User Generated Content images. I take a different view.

Like all parts of the newsroom, there are fewer staff photographers than in years gone by, but they are probably more important than ever. Why? Because ‘the internet’ loves nothing more than a great image.

That image can just as easily come from an iphone carried by a teenager who just happens to be in the right place at the right time as it can a photographer with £7k of kits with them, but that’s not to demean the work of a photographer. It’s just that like everything else in publishing, the audience is more empowered to share what they see.

The pixel-sharp quality of ipads and other Tablets makes strong images all the more compelling, while the thirst for image galleries – carefully curated ones, not ones where 30 images are thrown at the internet under a theme – means that all of a sudden, two hours on a photographic job feels less of a luxury than when all that was needed was a great shot for page 5.

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