Survive Your Newsroom

Survive Your Newsroom: Picture Editor

It’s not known if it is a contractual obligation but Picture Editors usually have beards.

Or motorbikes.

Usually both. And we’re including the women on this.


Dream on…not real depiction of real picture editor

Generally, but not always, ex-snappers – and snappers resent this term so feel free to use it freely – Picture Editors spend most of their day looking at at least two screens.

One is the live picture feed, a visual fractal of the newsiverse (copyright, reverseferret, just now), the other is Sky Sports.

Happily, watching Sky Sports also constitutes work, a reality that irks their Newsdesk co-workers no end, who, instead must put up with an endless wire feed of stabbings, rape and rapey-stabbings.

A good picture editor can save the life of their News Editor and at tabloids deliver the splash in a  single pic. Like a good News Editor they are peerless liars and bluffers able to steer their way through morning conference and evening conference with ease.

Even the most hardened editors find it difficult to unseat them – helped, in no small part, by the poker face hidden behind the beard.

Morning Conference

Editor: Do we have the pic?

PIcture Editor: We’ve been outside since this morning. (we’ve just set off from the other end of the country)

Evening Conference

Editor: How come we’ve not got no collect pic?

Picture Editor: They must have slipped out the back (we’ve only just got here)

Editor: Will be get the pic?

Picture Editor: I’ve got another pair of boots on the ground (I’ll look at Facebook when i get out of here)

New hacks may think the picture editor an addendum to their world. Writers can after all make the mistake of thinkiing their words are pure gold with pictures there just to give the reader a break from their peerless prose unless they keel over and faint.

Nothing could be further from the truth as you will actually find a large part of your early career writing words and captions to go with pictures, not the other way around.

Broadsheet picture editor choice from Cannes red carpet

Broadsheet picture editor choice from Cannes red carpet

Even hard-bitten staff reporters still knock out the words to a Page 3 pic of a baby tapir looking cute at the local zoo.

In any event, pic eds often get wind of a story long before newsdesk so allying yourselves to them will serve you well. Most snappers are freelance and they are more than capable of getting a good yarn onto a list as it is much easier for a pic ed to show the editor a good picture at conference than it is for a news editor to explain a story with few facts at their finger tips.

They are also fiendishly loyal to their snappers so treat them wisely. If you harbour delusions of a life on newsdesk, your pic ed will be your right hand. Always bone up on their picture list BEFORE you go into conference and if asked if you have a reporter on the job with the snapper, lie through your teeth.

Some editors will check in real time or ring the snapper to ask – so choose wisely but a decent pic ed will have the snappers briefed beforehand.

Aside from beards and bikes, there are two distinct flavours of pic editor in print: tabloid and broadsheet.

Broadsheet Picture Editor

Contrary to popular belief, they CAN do red carpet pictures but expect to see the back of the chosen celebrity in the well-worn trope of looking into hundreds of snappers’ lenses.

Picture bundle likely to include a shocking market bomb (We make no apologies for bringing you these gruesome pictures demonstrating the horrors of war. Full pic package on pages 4-5!) as well as falling leaves, cherry blossoms and the Turner Prize shortlist.

Specialises in headshots ofpoliticians who you’ve seen a hundred times before. Fixated with polar ice caps melting and lonely polar bears.

Tabloid picture editor does the red carpet, correctly

Tabloid picture editor does the red carpet, correctly

Tabloid Picture Editor

Not only will the tabloid picture editor bring you the red carpet but it will be full length dresses WITH shoes and any jewellery immediately scrutinised for value. Ring fingers are meticulously monitored for any additions as these immediately constitute a splash pic.

Spitting footballers, sad chavs on sofas holding a letter of some kind and a mugging victim in hospital usually form the meat and gristle of the day.

Rare that they miss a celebrity on the town and the worse they behave the better.

PIcture editors enjoy close working relationships with other pic desks once first edition has gone and it is usual, nay normal, for pics to be shared.

After all, one day your snapper will NOT make it to the door – and likewise your rival.

Word to the wise: NEVER allow them to befriend you on Facebook.

If you die horribly, you’re the splash. And they’ll have the collect.


Categories: Survive Your Newsroom

Tagged as: ,

3 replies »

  1. There is another kind of picture editor required nowadays – the one who can source a good image to go with anything if a real photo hasn’t turned up and manipulate all kinds of file types? When I got out of my last newsroom, it looked to me like there were, surprisingly, still job opportunities along those lines. Like you, I’d hate to see the back (no doubt improbably hairy) of the old-school king snapper, but publishers are less nostalgic and the job’s what they pay for innit?

    • Stock pics and themes that suggest the story are still no replacement for the real thing.

      If you want a story to connect with the reader, you need the actual human at the heart of it.

      I’d say it is even more vital not less in an age where news is delivered via an endless Facebook feed

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s