Journalese, A User's Guide

Journalese: Collects

Sometimes Mark Zuckerberg doesn’t oblige.

And if you’re a millennial who’s been asked to get a collect, right clicking to desktop just isn’t going to cut it.

We’re talking about pictures.

Collects are tabloid gold.  And by their definition, they are exclusive.

In other words the splash.

And they are one of the few times where a reporter can actually do more picture work than a snapper.

Collects come in all shapes and sizes and in all kinds of guises. But they have one thing in common – the person in the collect is more often than not dead. Usually tragically.

In the cases where they are not dead, they are usually in a scandal.

If google has failed and facebook has let you down, it’s time to get out the big guns. You’re actually going to have to leave the office.

But what do you do next? You’ve been sent on a  death knock and the only thing you can remember before being shouted out of the office is ‘Don’t come back without a collect!’wedd3


Work the margins. If your target is a local you will likely be able to get a school photo.  The relevance becomes even more poignant the more angelic the pic compared to the tragedy that has befallen them or the heinous crime  with which they have been charged.

Find out who the local school photographer is. Copyright will lie with them. Snappers usually have a price for anything.

If that fails, hit the local weekly paper’s archives for start of school year and hunt down class pics. Take your iPhone.


The moment you get a lead on a sporting ability hit the club house. The wall will be bedecked with team members.


Mother lode. A trip back to your local snapper should do it. If they’re stubborn, remind them that lots of family members will have the same pic and it could have come from anybody.wedd

IF that fails its down to marriage certs for you and back to the local paper archive or local library. Make sure you’re first as microfiche have been known to go missing on top stories only to mysteriously reappear when the tale has ran out of legs. We’re not suggesting you should do this to gain any competitive advantage of course. This would be wrong.


IF you’re lucky your mystery person will have a local profile in local groups. Prominent figures will even have done the (From Left to Right) Charity Cheque handovers. Your local newspaper office is getting sick of seeing you by now….because that’s where your headed.


There is of course no substitute for route one: The doorstep. Only you can judge how this will go and when  to ask for a picture but  the death knock can actually be the best time to get a picture from the family of the victim.

If you’ve got through the door, you have a duty to ask and frame it along the lines of ‘paying tribute’ to the lost life. It can be the most difficult part of the interview but if you don’t ask, you don’t get. Always ask about the person’s hobbies. Be inquisitive, ask to see them doing the thing they loved.

Which sounds better?

I’ve been told Jimmy was a promising goalkeeper. May I see him in action? They said he leaped like a cat.


Got a picture of your dead kid? Editor will be pissed off I don’t ask.

It can only go one of two ways.

There is a third way known only to the nameless and the shameless and practiced in a pre-Levinson age: the grab.wedd2


There are agencies and tabloids for whom this next tactic was deployed. Be prepared for a shitstorm.

Use the loo and snap any pictures on the walls on the way.


If victim is on the mantelpiece ask the grieving relative for a standard picture but ensure they are standing next to the picture.

You may find your snapper’s lens a little off-centre and the relative out of shot.

But sure, shit happens, right?


Categories: Journalese, A User's Guide

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2 replies »

  1. That’s about it, Gary. Plus, of course, there’s letting it be known in certain quarters that there might be a couple of weeks beer money in a good find. Or is that illegal now?

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