Since Daily Sabah was launched, we in the Reader's Corner have always emphasized the importance of photographs to reporting. Already having a couple of articles on the issue under our belt, last week İbrahim Altay once again emphasized the role of the image in his article, "Respecting the bylines." Considering how photos should be treated as news on their own, he contended byline rules should also apply to them, as they are genuine work. So last week, he said that we would start counting the bylines and explanatory captions of this week's photos and reveal the findings to get a better grasp of the issue. Let's see if a heads up was enough for our editors to make sure they added bylines and captions.
As we took the statistics on Friday, last weekend's issue was not included, and instead, the prior weekend's issue was used. All in all, these numbers represent newspapers published between Aug. 29 and Sept. 4. We also tried to exclude stock images from our statistics, as sometimes they are free to use and featured without the name of the artist on stock image sites.
When we look at the weeklong numbers, the Sports page looks like the frontrunner on missing photo bylines, with 19 missing. Following Sports was Culture & Arts with 15, Back page with 14 and Business with nine. Lifestyle had five instances where a photo was missing a byline, Politics had four and Feature had three. National had only one. On the other hand, we would like to congratulate our Regional and International Editor Yusuf Selman İnanç as well as our Op-ed and Columns Editor Meryem İlayda Atlas as they had every photo signed with the byline. Considering that they were acting with similar diligence in our previous statistics on photo bylines, we can say these four pages can set an example on how to use photographs in the newspaper.
Let's move on to captions. We tackled this issue in two previous articles as well, both written by Altay with the titles "Photos are still part of the content" and "Usage of photos in Daily Sabah." They were published on April 20 and May 17, respectively. This time, photos from the Politics pages seemed to be missing the captions most with eight instances. Following that, Sports had seven missing captions and tied for third place were Culture & Arts and Back pages with four missing captions. Business had three, Lifestyle had two and National had one missing caption. Similar to the previous category, the Regional, International, Opinion and Column pages were not missing a single caption.
In our previous study, Altay mentioned that the April 14 issue of Daily Sabah's Column page was missing captions and said that even though many of our readers might understand what the photo is trying to show, journalists must think of those who don't. It seems that the Column page took this to heart and adjusted accordingly. Once again, congratulations to both of our editors. On the other hand, the Politics page might need the same advice, as many of their missing captions were the resulting of a similar issue. Even though the person in the picture was identified in the news article, we must treat photos as singular entities and write an explanatory caption regardless. We also excluded the smallest pictures from our study if the title was explanatory enough, as there might be design problems that prevented our editors from writing captions.
Sometimes using stock images might make writing captions difficult or redundant. But editors can use captions as a medium for strengthening the message in the photo. An example of this can be found on the Aug. 31 Business page. The photo caption, "China's crash most closely matches Japan's in early ‘90s," presented the reader with a helpful and informative context.
Having several pages without a single missing byline or caption throughout the week is good news indeed, but considering how even the world-shaking image of Aylan Kurdi was also printed on our front page without a byline, it would be safe to say that we will probably have to revisit the issue again.
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