The Washington Post Proves You Can’t Trust the Media

News sources today suffer from an accuracy problem. Journalists are under pressure to publish first in a dramatic buzz-worthy way to drive traffic. And there are fewer journalists. Those that remain are younger and less experienced, and they have to produce more content. The end result is an alarming amount of inaccurate stories that are tabloidesque in nature. This is true of small and large media outlets alike, as evidenced by a series of stories produced by the Washington Post‘s sports section in the past two weeks.

Last week a media debacle unfolded for the Washington Nationals, largely created by errant Washington Post articles. The news that Bud Black was hired as the Nationals Manager — a story reported by the Washington Post’s James Wagner and then echoed across every sports rag in the country — was wrong. Instead they hired Dusty Baker.

When the tsunami of reporters descended on the strange twist, they shellacked Nationals ownership for underbidding Black and being only willing to extend a two-year contract at no more than $2 million per year, plus incentives. Leading the charge was the Washington Post’s Adam Kilgore (whose Twitter bio reads “Riding the line between honesty and schmucky journalist piling on”), who tarred and feathered the owners as out of touch, insulting, and cheap.

Personally, I thought the coverage was vindictive. Keep in mind Kilgore authored a series of Washington Post “expose” style articles at the end of the season detailing the Nationals horrid downward spiral. Again, ownership and management was tarnished (it’s never the players fault, is it?).

Where the Post Went Wrong

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There were two primary points the Post missed in the Bud Black/Dusty Baker story. At issue in the original story were Wagner’s nebulous sources, “according to multiple people familiar with the situation.”

Better sources were needed (says Captain Obvious after the fact). Every sports magazine and news outlet across the country that cited Wagner’s story as the definitive source should be ashamed of their blind shallow reporting.

At the Baker press conference, GM Mike Rizzo stated that he had told reporters that he wouldn’t go to print with the story, but the Post ignored him. Then on a local sports radio show, Rizzo said, “the media jumped the gun.” Dusty Baker said he hadn’t heard from the Nationals at the time the Black story came out, and felt hurt. In hindsight, maybe that was the ultimate sign that the managerial hire wasn’t finished.

An even bigger whiff was the Kilgore article slamming the Lerners’ character for not wanting to hire a manager for more than two years at a $2 million clip. The reason is simple: GM Mike Rizzo’s contract is up at the end of next year. After the horrid Matt Williams debacle, the terrible Papplebon trade, and horrific bullpen and bench moves over the past two years, the Lerners might be losing faith in Rizzo. The 2016 season is a make or break year for Mike Rizzo’s tenure with the Nationals.

Baseball Analyst Steve Phillips, a former general manager, spoke on the 106.7 show Grant and Danny on November 4 (segment 5). Phillips was quick to point out that new GMs don’t like to inherit managers. They hire their own manager as soon as possible. No GM wants to inherit a manager with an odious four or five year contract from his predecessor. So new Nationals Manager Dusty Baker really has one year to save Rizzo’s job, two to save his own.

As for the salary amount, that’s business. And in the end, Baker agreed to the $2 million a year salary plus another $3 million in potential bonuses. If the rate was too low, the position would have been unfulfilled.

Bad Reporting Is the Norm

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The past few months of the Washington Post‘s sports coverage reminded me more of the National Enquirer than a storied news outlet. Woodward and Bernstein did not write these pieces. Instead, the articles read more like ESPN gaffes. The 24 hour network has been know to incorrectly publish stories as quickly as possible and ducking responsibility for them.

Poorly researched dramatic news stories are normal now. Reporters are strapped. They have to do more with less, and the end result is increasing errors and over-the-top drama. That’s across all types of media. There are no sacred mastheads anymore. Every outlet has a bias, and most reporters are chumming the social network waters for the most shares.

Blind faith in the media is a mistake. Triangulate sources, and make sure different articles are not citing the same originating story. More than anything, question everything you read and see.

Maybe I am wrong, perhaps the Washington Post printed a retraction on the last page of the sports section at some point over the past week. That’s where such errors are usually buried unnoticed by the masses. Who knows? I don’t read a physical print paper anymore (do you?).

More importantly, are there any trustworthy news sources out there anymore?

4 More Photo Tips Gleaned from the 365 Full Frame Project

We are in the final week of the 365 Full Frame Project, and it seems fitting to share four more photo tips I have picked up over the past year. You can read the first six tips here, which include framing, the rule of thirds, minimalism and sunrises/sunsets.

And with that, let’s begin.

1) If It’s Not Sharp, then Don’t Post It (Unless)

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It’s tempting to post a good capture with a subject that you like even though it’s a little fuzzy. Don’t do it. You need the subject to be in focus. Yes, there are photos that have fuzzy continuation or depth of field and bokeh, which make for a great image. But those photos have a subject that is clearly in focus.

A fuzzy pic is not a good pic, no matter how strong the subject and composition is. The only reason to keep it is for sentimental value. If that’s the case, cool. Memories are precious.

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There is another exception, which is if you are intentionally blurring or distorting a photograph. In that case, go for it. Art is art.

2) Rich Vibrant Color Is a Technique

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People remark on the color I get in my photos, particularly in the skies. They often assume the shots are HDR. Probably one in every 25 photos I post uses HDR processing. In reality, a good part of rich coloring is the way the photo is shot and edited.

One critical aspect of color is exposing for it. When you shoot manually, you can choose what you expose in your photo. So when I take a sunset or sunrise pic, I expose for the sun or the most colorful part of the sky.

Remember, a camera is just a computer that interprets light. Most cameras offer several interpretations (e.g. Standard, Flat, Portrait, Vivid, Landscape) for the same shot. When you manually expose a shot, you are helping the computer by directing its function rather than letting it make a best guess.

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On the editing, HDR lets you expose for the sky and then take a second or third photo and expose other aspects in the scene and then blend. This produces rich color and detail throughout the photo. But not everyone likes HDR, nor does every photographer have the patience to blend the images.

When I expose a single shot for the sky, I open the highlights to reduce glare and pull out the rich color. I adjust whites and blacks accordingly. From there, normal edits on vibrance and contrast finish the job.

I also open the shadows in Lightroom to expose the foreground or the dark parts. But that’s not a universal approach for me. Sometimes I leave the image silhouetted like I did in this pic.

3) Use Filters Mindfully

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Whether you create presets of your workflow, buy presets or use a tool like Intensify, you are using filters. I have heard the no filter argument, and I know what classic photographers used to do. They altered their photos in the darkroom.

When you edit photos using presets others filters, it’s an attempt to make it better. Generally, people like the photos more.

The above photo of the Ngorongoro Crater was very difficult to produce. The crater had some intense light elements with diverse shadows and light. There were cloud walls on the rim and to the left, somewhat filtering the sunset. The final production involved merging three different photos (one to the left, one in the middle and one to the right, but not an HDR overlay) in Photoshop to get the right exposure across the crater, significant Lightroom time, and about three different brushed Intensify filters in parts of the photo.

The real issue that happens with filters is when people mindlessly filter images without thinking about what they are communicating. While the haphazard filtered movement produces a few diamonds, the real product is rarely photography. However, it’s what makes people happy when they Instagram or Facebook or whatever. This also gives a real photographer an opportunity to distinguish themselves with strong unique images.

I believe a photo is a person’s interpretation of something they witnessed, realistic or abstract. Each photo is a unique experience. I never use the exact same edit or a universal filter for touch-ups.

4) Black and White Works

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A good color photograph almost always makes for a good black and white photo. But so does a photo with blown out highlights, bad light (for example, your atypical middle of the day shot) or muted tones. I try not to produce photos that are shot in mid-day, but sometimes you don’t have a choice.

Often I produce these shots as black and white works. The above shot is the el train in Chicago, and it was shot in the morning blue hour before dawn. However, it came out looking dusty and blue. So I went black and white.

The editing was done as an HDR edit in Photomatix using three exposures merged on top of each other. I significantly boosted the contrast further and gave the photo a vignette to make it even more brooding. As Serge Ramelli notes, going over the top in black and white seems to work.

What tips would you add?