Photojournalism Q&A with Michele McNally of the NY Times

Photojournalism Q&A with Michele McNally of the NY Times

Michele McNally is the Managing Editor at The New York Times overseeing all the photography commissioned for and used in the paper -- everything from the front page color spot selection to the photo use throughout the sections and reporting pages.

Read on for more on her Q&A this week where she's answering any and all questions about the business of photography and photo editing... it's pretty great to see, especially when she gets into what happened to "the good old days".

As part of the Times "Talk to the Newsroom" recurring feature, McNally is answering reader-submitted questions throughout this week (June 22-26) -- if you've got a question for her, send it to and be sure to watch the "Talk" page as they continue to update with questions and McNally's responses as the week goes on.

Recent answers give a fascinating peek into the way a vast organization like the Times manages their visual journalism, including McNally's thoughts on
• the difference between good and great photography
• vital skills for a photo editor
• citizen journalism
• and, a favorite here with the editors--someone just wondering where the glamour times of first-class tickets and scotch with the picture editor in his office (ahem) have gone...Ms. McNally's got an answer for everything so far:
Yes, I do remember those days -- robust ad revenue, 500-page magazines, monthly expense accounts that surpass yearly these days, off-site meetings in Lanai, catered gourmet dinners on closing nights, and yes showing pictures to the editor in a bar! I remember getting 5 figures for pictures that weren't shot yet -- and the competition so stiff the prices would escalate -- and the picture editors not even knowing what their budget were. Wow, what a long time ago!

Many things have changed since that time, budgets have been slashed, newspapers and magazines have folded, and staffs have been cut. Along the way something else happened -- the birth and rise of digital photography and the wire agencies getting more competitive and hiring really strong photographers. It became easier to cut the photo budget when you no longer had the expense of film and processing, and did you really need to send someone so far, at great expense, when the wires had the fastest transmitting abilities and had accumulated a great new roster of photographers? All that said, we did not have the Web back then -- and it is a very visually hungry medium. There are new ways to showcase photography these days, and different, exciting ways to tell stories. I guess we will just have to use our budget for newsgathering and forgo the (admittedly missed) perks.
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