A Picture With Your Thousand Words

In a trend we’re not sure we’d like to see extended to our own newsroom, The Orange County Register will soon be featuring pictures of their writers indented in every story they publish. LA Observed’s Kevin Roderick got a hold of an internal memo announcing the change, sent to the newsroom yesterday:

Recently-released MORI research recommendations told us that we need to better promote our talented writing staff. Images were specifically called out by the research team as a good way to do this.

You’ll remember months back we reworked the online sigs and at that time said print would be next. We’re there!

The biggest change is that every story written by a staff writer will have that writer’s picture and byline indented into the text. I’ve included examples of both columnist and reporter styles below.

…Please remember: we do straightforward, no-prop images in print.

It’s certainly understandable for a blogger or columnist or “name” journalist to have their pic featured next to a stellar piece of prose. But does a staffer going though the motions on a local community meeting really need you to see their cheesy grin or stern, stony, serious-face? Seems to be taking “Look at Me!” journalistic branding to a bit of an extreme.

And, with ink and paper at such a premium, can we really afford to waste what precious few column inches we have on bland, prop-free headshots?

Okay, so that’s probably a bit too much, and I am sure it will be fun to see all these not-so-TV-friendly folks’s noggins staring back at us as we sip our morning joe. But will pics actually help promote “talented staff”? Or, will the Register suffer the fate of many an online dater—lured by the text only to find nothing to love in the face.

Do not fear. We shan’t be following suit any time soon.

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Joel Meares is a former CJR assistant editor.