Breaking News Bar
updated: 7/28/2011 11:53 AM

Reporting skills play key role in news photography

Success - Article sent! close

News stories are born in many different ways.

Some just occur. Wars. Floods. Pestilence. Crimes, On rare occasions in Chicago, major professional sports championships.

Some derive from reporters' understanding of their communities and their beats. Descriptions of the most important actions at school and town meetings. Reports on tax and spending proposals by government agencies. Analyses of the factors and events in the quests of Chicago professional sports teams to win national championships.

Some come from investigation and pure enterprise. Examinations of public employees' pension payments. Reactions to the opening of a major new business. Profiles of popular or powerful figures helping to shape our politics, our communities, our schools and, yes, our sports teams.

And some, some don't come from reporters at all. They come from photographers.

Actually, it's something of a misnomer to suggest photographers have a fundamentally different job than reporters. Both types of news staffer report; they just use different tools for telling their stories. I detail all this by way of highlighting the reporting of Daily Herald photographer Bob Chwedyk that led to one of the most striking stories following the weekend floods in the suburbs.

Chwedyk was dispatched Monday morning to a neighborhood near the border of Mount Prospect and Arlington Heights with the vague assignment of finding a story that might reflect some of the most serious devastation experienced by suburban residents from the 7-inch surge of rain overnight Friday. Seeing the pile of belongings Mike and Janet Donner had amassed at their curb, Chwedyk asked a few questions and discovered a harrowing story.

Stormwaters bore down on the Donners' Arlington Heights home so forcefully early Saturday morning that they broke three windows and, in 20 minutes, filled the family's basement with 8 feet of water. Chwedyk captured the aftermath as the Donner family continued to clean up. His photographs didn't just supplement the text that writers Madhu Krishnamurthy and Zuzanna Skwoit provided through their own reporting on the flood aftermath, they provided a visual report all their own.

This is not to take away from the excellent work Daily Herald writers did in covering the flooding -- or do in the normal course of their work on all stories. Text and pictures are both critical, of course, to the full telling of a story like that of the weekend flooding. But Chwedyk's reporting offers a good opportunity to emphasize that good news photography involves more than just pointing a camera at a subject and snapping the shutter. Daily Herald photographers often use many of the same investigative, interviewing and research skills as Daily Herald writers. They just tell the story in a different way.

With that thought in mind, it's nice to note that the advent of the Internet provides more opportunities for photographers' visual story telling. Tuesday's print edition had room for three of Chwedyk's pictures at the Donner home, but you'll find six times that number at our website -- along with additional galleries of images of the weekend flooding from throughout the suburbs.

It's a further opportunity to showcase the work of all our reporters -- the ones who work in pictures as well as those who work in words.

• Jim Slusher,, is an assistant managing editor at the Daily Herald. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter.