Actual email discussion on deadline among Senior Photographer Brian Hill, Director of Photography Jeff Knox and yours truly:
Me: Brian, the goat's pictures are better than yours!!!! :-)
Brian: Don't let that get out! I am pretty sure that goat feed is cheaper than my salary.
Jeff: Does the goat own the copyright?
Brian: We could give the goat a byline ...
The source of this levity was Brian's decision to strap a GoPro camera to a goat and see how that might work as Brian also snapped photos and took video of goats mingling with people doing yoga on a farm near Elburn. Happens every day in this business.
Because of a misunderstanding on my part about which photos were taken by whom, I was genuinely impressed with a still that I thought came from the video taken by that camera-mounted goat. What I should have known was, no, the best shots came from Brian's camera.
And that's the point here: It's well worth noting that our photographers do far, far more than take pictures.
The expectation on most major news assignments is that in addition to coming up with great photos, they also must shoot and produce an accompanying video.
(Brian carried the concept a bit farther by incorporating goat-recorded video into the mix. So, part of his duties on Wednesday included rounding up the GoPro Goat on more than one occasion and shooing him back toward the yoga class.)
On some assignments, we ask photographers to write short stories.
And we always ask them to show good news judgment.
For example, the idea to do the story came from Jeff. His son works at Rustic Road Farm, and mentioned casually that a yoga class was going to be held there. Jeff did a little advance research on the phenomenon of goat yoga, learned that is actually is a bit of a craze, and then pitched the idea to me.
I assigned the story to Susan Sarkauskas, whose beat includes Elburn. She already was familiar with Rustic Road Farm, which in addition to its 26 goats, has 600 chickens, some sheep and 100 pigs. The farm grows vegetables and sells sauces, soups and other items canned by owner Mark Bernard, who quit his job two years ago as an executive chef for Lettuce Entertain You restaurants to focus on the farm.
In addition to capturing the fun and admitted charm of the co-mingling of seven smaller goats and an enchanted crowd of about 25, mostly women, doing yoga, Susan also took care to answer a key question about this latest workout phenomenon: Why?
Seems that people find the presence of goats or other animals during yoga calming, instructor Mary Cwiklinski told Susan.
The goats of Rustic Road Farm were hand-fed bottles of milk as infants and are comfortable with being close to people. That coincides with one of the missions of yoga: enhancing students' sense of being connected to the rest of their environment.
Speaking of connected, before Susan went to the assignment, I sent her a story by CNN on goat yoga. I'm presuming that the goats in that story were a bit more experienced, as at least one was photographed climbing on the backs of the yoga practitioners. Word of such a practice, though, had gotten around to the people doing yoga for the first time at Rustic Road Farm.
"I am a little disappointed that I didn't end up with a goat on my back," JoAnne Lefelstein of St. Charles told Susan.
So, no question that the union of goats and yoga was a success, and more sessions are envisioned.
In fact, Brian reported after completing the assignment, some of the participants "seemed more interested in taking selfies with the goats then doing yoga."
He also reported that it took three hand washings and a shower to remove the smell of goat.
All in a day's work.