The rise of Awoko Newspaper will always be linked with the execution of 24 soldiers eleven years ago, one of two newspapers to carry the photographs of the execution at Goderich
Awoko started publications few months before the execution and as usual the paper was struggling to survive because it was new and adverts were hard to come by, but the belief in photojournalism by the editor Kelvin Lewis gave the paper the right footing at the right time as on the next day of publication after the execution, we had to print twice that day and it was still not enough as citizens photocopied the newspaper and sold them all over the country.
Hence Awoko Newspaper built up it’s credibility around photographs that tell the story without bias, as long as they are not tampered with to give another story.
Photojournalism is an important arm of the media as it has been since the 1800s until now. It is a particular form of journalism of collecting, editing and presenting the news material for publication that creates images in order to tell a news story.
It is now usually understood to refer only to still images, and in some cases video used in broadcast journalism or for personal use. Photojournalism is distinguished from other close branches of photography such as documentary photography, street photography and celebrity photography because of the timeliness as the images have meaning in the context of a recently record of events.
Secondly, its objectivity depicts the situation implied by the images as fair and accurate in content and tone. Finally the image narrates and combines with other news elements to make facts relatable to the reader or viewer on a cultural level.
Like a writer, the photojournalist is a reporter but he or she must often make decisions instantly and carry photographic equipment always. This has proved successful in Awoko Newspaper as every reporter is trained to use the camera and it is a must for us to present a picture for every story we write.
The reasons for photographs especially in Sierra Leone is two fold; firstly, the incident that happens and there is a photograph of it will be difficult to deny by the victim. My former colleague Sylvester Suaray and I were beaten sometime ago by OSD officers because we took photographs of them taking advantage of a man after they had hit and dented his car.
They knew the photographs would implicate them so they wanted to destroy the camera but I protected it and the story accompanied by the photos was published for all to see. Secondly in Sierra Leone, the illiteracy rate is high and those who fall under such category can see the picture and tell the whole story.
According to history, the practice of illustrating news stories with photographs was made possible by printing and photography innovations that occurred in the late 1800s. Newsworthy events were photographed as early as the 1850s, but printing presses started publishing from engravings around 1880.
History tells us that the first photojournalist was Carl Szathmari who did pictures in the Crimean War around 1853 to 1856. His albums were sent to European royal houses, but few of his photographs survived. After him it was reported that the British press reporters in the same war William Simpson and Roger Fenton published engravings of their photos by Illustrated London news.
Also the American Civil War photographs of Mathew Brady were engraved before publication in Harper’s weekly. As the public craved for more realistic representations of news stories, it was common for important photographs to be exhibited in galleries or copied photographically in limited numbers.
Awoko Newspaper has been a source of inspiration to many newspapers for its dedication and commitment in using photographs to tell stories and to help them whenever they need a particular photograph. The newspaper has built its image on that front and it has paid good dividend for the growth and development.
Presently, the digital camera makes it easy with great speed to receive and send photos wherever we are. This was almost the case in the early 1900s when the use of Wirephoto made it possible to transmit pictures almost as quickly as news itself could travel. However it was not until the productions of the 35mm Leica camera in 1925 and the first flash bulbs between 1927 and 1930 that all the elements were in place for a golden age of photojournalism.
In today’s world, the inception of video camera and television has given rise to a stiffer competition with the newspaper. A newspaper covering an important event without photographs of it is as good as not producing the story in the developed world. In Sierra Leone, some newspapers don’t worry because the readership sometime is unpredictable. Some just want to see the headline of the story, others will want to see the photos of the incident for them to make up their mind which one to buy.
The Sun of England is a typical example of a newspaper who believes in photographs. Page three of The Sun will everyday carry a picture of a very beautiful lady half nude and no advert whatsoever can take that page, as they believe majority of their readership appreciate it.
So likewise is Awoko newspaper who believes that the headline and photos are enough for the front page with the story in the inside pages. This strategy proved successful for us and with the present coloured pages, it is more reader friendly and makes the newspaper one of the leading in the country.
Since the late 1970s, photojournalism and documentary photography have increasingly been accorded a place in art galleries alongside fine art photography. Luc Delahaye, VII Photo Agency is among many who regularly exhibit in galleries.
The Danish Union of Press Photographers (Pressefotografforbundet) was the first national organization for newspaper photographers in the world. It was founded in 1912 in Denmark by six press photographers in Copenhagen. Today it has over 800 members.
News organizations and journalism schools run many different awards for photojournalists. Since 1968, Pulitzer Prizes have been awarded for the following categories of photojournalism: Feature Photography, Spot News Photography. Other awards are World Press Photo, Best of Photojournalism, and Pictures of the Year as well as the UK based The Press Photographer’s Year.
Photojournalism works within the same ethical approaches of objectivity that is applied by other journalists. What to shoot, how to frame and how to edit are constant considerations.
Often, ethical conflicts can be mitigated or enhanced by the actions of a sub-editor or picture editor, who takes control of the images once they have been delivered to the news organization. The photojournalist often has no control as to how images are ultimately used in the big newspaper organizations.
The emergence of digital photography offers whole new realms of opportunity for the manipulation, reproduction, and transmission of images. It has inevitably complicated many of the ethical issues involved.
Smaller, lighter cameras greatly enhanced the role of the photojournalist. Since the 1960s, motor drives, electronic flash, auto-focus, better lenses and other camera enhancements have made picture taking easier. New digital cameras free photojournalists from the limitation of film roll length, as thousands of images can be stored on a single microdrive or memory card.
Content remains the most important element of photojournalism, but the ability to extend deadlines with rapid gathering and editing of images has brought significant changes. As recently as 15 years ago, nearly 30 minutes were needed to scan and transmit a single color photograph from a remote location to a news office for printing. Now, equipped with a digital camera, a mobile phone and a laptop computer, a photojournalist can send a high-quality image in one minute, seconds after an event occurs. Video phones and portable satellite links increasingly allow for the mobile transmission of images from almost any point on the earth.
It is evident that in the coming year’s photojournalism will be easier and faster to enhance more success of the newspaper. Important news stories should always carry a picture to help tell the story and the more pictures a newspaper has the better its growth. Presently most adverts are animations that attract the readers. How can a company selling phones advertise without the photos of the phones; it is as good as not advertising, because the readers need to see the pictures of the phones before they will check the specs and other information.
So we have to pay more attention to photojournalism and improve our newspapers with quality pictures that will attract and improve the sale of our newspapers.