Policy Corner: Talking to and photographing kids

  • Jim Baumann

    Jim Baumann

 
 
Updated 7/4/2021 8:48 AM

These days there is heightened awareness about how our kids are portrayed on social media, let alone the news media.

We're aware of that. And we understand it. Many of us are parents and grandparents, too.

 

So we are sensitive to those who might look strangely at someone carrying a camera with a long lens -- especially when there are kids around.

When we are out in public photographing the goings-on of suburban life, we try to do so unobtrusively -- but without hiding what we're doing.

After all, we want to capture candid moments but we don't want you to be surprised when your photo -- or that of your child -- shows up in the paper or on dailyherald.com.

We don't have a hard-and-fast policy on talking to and photographing minors in public places -- there are just too many scenarios to consider -- but we have some general guidelines bolstered by an abundance of caring and common sense.

I can count on one hand, with a few fingers left over, during the past 30 years the number of times a parent has called me concerned with what one of our photographers in the field was up to.

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It is fair game for us to photograph people in public spaces, but just because we can doesn't always mean we should or will, Jeff Knox, our Director of Visuals, told me.

That's the difference between a community newspaper and, let's say, a newsgatherer with no direct ties to the community.

If we saw a group of kids doing tricks at a skate park, for instance, but there were no adults around, we likely would walk up to them, tell them who we are and why we're there and then let them go about their fun. We'd collect their names for caption purposes and ordinarily give them a business card in case they -- or their parent -- wants to follow up.

There are rare cases in which a parent will call us back and, for whatever reason, ask us not to use those photos. We honor that.

It's not that we have to by law; it's that it's the right thing to do.

If the kids we're photographing are very young, we will seek out a parent or caregiver and ask permission to shoot before doing so.

Things are a little different when it comes to writing about and photographing high school sports.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

We have a storied history of covering high school sports, and sports parents everywhere have come to expect us to talk to the kids who made a strong showing.

In the case of an especially tough loss, Assistant High School Sports Editor John Lemon told me, we'll ask a coach if it's OK to talk to a player. And they're almost always fine with that.

When they're not, we'll accede to the coach's wishes.

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