Not Every Picture

by Roger Pynn

Not all pictures tell a story as the old saying suggests, but most do. But it is important they not be “interpreted” like modern art when they clearly show a moment in time. Blogger Khoi Vinh – Design Director at NYTimes.com – shared a meaningful moment in time captured outside The New York Times building yesterday as people joined a long line outside for the chance to buy what will no doubt become a collector item: the Times’ front page coverage of Barack Obama’s victory.

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It was a leap to suggest that the line proved “print is not dead,” and it spurred a conversation on the blog of whether what the people were waiting to buy was a newspaper or the news it contained.

My take on it all was that people were buying the Times’ rendition of the story. Turns out the same thing happened in Chicago, and it would be a fair bet it happened elsewhere. Here in Orlando, for instance, the Orlando Sentinel created a front and back cover wraparound “Page 1” by printing a double page image of Obama’s massive Grant Park Celebration. That event, too, was news.

So perhaps the message that comes from the rush to buy these “history books” is that newspapers will be relevant as long as they stick to news, putting analysis in its proper place and staying true to their mission of gathering and reporting the facts. Sure, they may need to continue morphing a product for Internet consumers, but it, too, must be first and foremost a news product. Let the other toys of the Internet take the place of the funny pages – nice but not necessary.

As Timothy Mills of the Chicago Tribune Interactive Department, who also joined Vinh’s conversation, put it … “you can’t make a memento out of a Web site.”

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