One of the very best reasons to live in Florida is spring training baseball.
I’ve spent the last 13 springs traveling around the Grapefruit League, watching games in nearly every venue Florida has to offer. This year, Rusty and I decided we’d let all the teams come to us. We got season spring training tickets for McKechnie Field in Bradenton, home of the Pittsburgh Pirates.
We have great seats along the first baseline. Right behind us, the photographers from various news organizations position themselves to get shots of the action.
We’re just a few games into spring training, but I’ve already noticed that most of these photographers plop themselves into this spot (which happens to be one of the shady spots in the ball park) and never move. Since I can hear every word of their conversation, I know that they spend a good bit of their time complaining about their various workplaces.
When they shoot pictures, their cameras are trained on the action on the field. No where else. Just on the field.
That’s why, as the former editor of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune, I was particularly proud to watch one of the paper’s photographers in action on Tuesday at the Pirates-Yankees game.
Thomas Bender didn’t park himself in one spot and just shoot pictures of the games superstars. He shot the whole game – the action on the field, but just as importantly, the action in the stands. He roamed the stands, taking pictures of Pirates Manager Clint Hurdle signing baseballs for a very young fan, of one of the umpires joking around with a child, of the Pirates Parrot giving a child a ride.
Watching Tom reminded me of something that Rusty and I have always believed should be one of the distinguishing characteristics of news in a digital age. The job now isn’t to just to cover what happens on the playing field, or the stage, or the city council dais. The job is to turn around and shoot the crowd.
The story isn’t what is happening in front of us. It’s how we are all participating in the events, how our reactions change the shape of the news itself. That’s true on a small scale at a spring training baseball game. It’s true on a much bigger level when the stakes are high, as we’ve seen in the revolutions around the Middle East.
Watching Thomas Bender work on Tuesday gave me a very concrete reminder of how important it is to turn the camera from the action on the field to the faces in the crowd. You can see the wonderful results of following that instinct here.