Readers' Representative Journal

A conversation on newsroom ethics and standards

Category: Story behind the story

Behind the lens: 100-year-old photos of modern Olympians


With a smartphone and the right app, any of us can take retro-looking photos.

But Times photojournalist Jay L. Clendenin took retro to a new level with his photographs of U.S. Olympians. And, he said, it was a "creatively rejuvenating experience."

Clendenin took black-and-white images on film to juxtapose with his digital color portraits. But that wasn't all. As he explains in a post on The Times' Framework blog, he used a 4-by-5-inch field camera outfitted with a 100-year-old lens. He then developed the black-and-white images in a makeshift darkroom in his bathroom.

The darkroom setup wasn't ideal; Clendenin noted that some of the photos ended up with fingerprints on them, while others had fixer stains. But, "it was a fun process."

Times photojournalist Jay L. Clendenin took retro to a new level with his photographs of U.S. Olympians.Some of the images, such as those of fencer Alexander Massialas or the Men's Four rowing team (at right), look as though they could be from another era. In others, corporate swooshes on the athletes' clothing give away the modern time element. 

Clendenin said the process forced him to slow down and think about each frame. He wrote on Framework:

"The process was cumbersome and filled with experimentation. ... But shooting the large-format film was a relaxing and, most important, creatively rejuvenating experience."

"I was reminded of the creative serendipity that comes with shooting film: I couldn't look at the back of the camera and see what had just happened when I took that picture! ... Though there are obvious downsides to not seeing if your timing and composition were precise, I enjoyed the challenge and reveled in the 'mistakes' that happened along the way."

The black-and-white photos were published in the center spread of the initial London 2012 section, on July 27. The images with their corresponding color shots are on Framework.

-- Deirdre Edgar

Photo: Scott Gault, left, Charlie Cole, Henrik Rummel and Glenn Ochal make up the U.S. Men's Four rowing team. Credit: Jay L. Clendenin / Los Angeles Times

Reader finds family history in archival Times photo


Kary Kuwahara of Pasadena said she always thinks of her grandmother at this time of year, the anniversary of her death in 1985. So when Kuwahara opened the LATExtra section on Thursday, she made a poignant discovery.

An archival photo (above) showed two Japanese American women who worked at a cannery on Terminal Island. The woman on the left was Kuwahara's grandmother, Kin Takeuchi.

The photo accompanied an article by Bob Pool reporting that Terminal Island had been named one of America's most endangered historic places.

The original photo was taken Jan. 27, 1942, and published the following day in The Times.

Less than a month later, on Feb. 19, 1942, President Franklin D. Roosevelt issued the order for Japanese Americans on the West Coast to be incarcerated.

"My grandparents resided in T.I. and my grandfather worked as a fisherman, and my grandmother worked in the canneries," Kuwahara wrote in an email. "This was all prior to being interned at Manzanar when the Japanese Americans were relocated." 

Indeed, as Pool's article noted, nearly 3,000 residents of Terminal Island were among the first Japanese Americans to be uprooted and moved to World War II internment camps. The Manzanar War Relocation Center in the Owens Valley north of Lone Pine was one of 10 such camps around the country. Its first detainees arrived in March 1942.

Kuwahara had never seen the Times photo. "We have many old photos of my family's days in Manzanar, but very few from Terminal Island," she said.

"I had many calls throughout the day of June 7, from old family friends who either knew my grandmother or lived in Terminal Island at the same time, asking if the photo was my grandmother."

Kin Takeuchi died June 4, 1985.

"Every June 4 I have moments throughout the day just thinking of her," Kuwahara said. "To see her photograph on June 7 made me feel like she is still with me. Whoever selected that photograph never knew how meaningful both the article and picture would be."

-- Deirdre Edgar

Photo: A 1942 photo shows Kin Takeuchi, left, and an unidentified coworker on Terminal Island. Credit: Los Angeles Times

Video: David Horsey explains his creative process

David Horsey

Political cartoonist and commentator David Horsey gives readers a peek at his creative process in a new video interview.

"I've always called myself a journalist who happens to draw," he says. "If I wasn’t drawing cartoons, I'd be writing stories."

On The Times' Top of the Ticket blog, he does both.

"I almost literally wake up in the morning starting to think of my next idea. It's almost always driven by what's in the news," he says. "The hard part, really, is getting from knowing what I want to say to figuring out how to say it in an image.

"I'm still not entirely sure how to explain how that happens .... Suddenly, something just works. A metaphor, an image comes into my head, and that's it."

The video goes on to show Horsey making a rough sketch in pencil, then inking it with pen, and finally scanning the cartoon into the computer, where he colorizes it.

Horsey's work can be found at Top of the Ticket.

-- Deirdre Edgar

Photo: David Horsey colorizes a cartoon. Credit: Armand Emamdjomeh / Los Angeles Times

Backstage at The Times on Oscar night


Oscar night at The Times is a major production — perhaps not as large as that of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, but pretty big nonetheless.

And as with any event, it takes a large group of people behind the scenes to pull it all together.

Assistant Managing Editor Michael Whitley, who oversees The Times' design editors, chronicled production of the Oscars edition with photos that he tweeted periodically. By the end of the night, he'd posted more than 30, and they provide a glimpse into the work that went into Monday's newspaper.

What inspired him?

I probably get asked more about Oscar night at the L.A. Times than anything else we do. So posting the photos was kind of a last-minute idea (and I really didn’t even think it though all the way). I just took a photo and posted it. It was a way for me to get out some of the nervous energy I feel early in the night when we are waiting a lot.

And as I went along and took a few more, I got some emails from friends in the journalism community saying they liked seeing the process unfold and could I keep it up. So I did the best I could while also still editing the section.

The Oscars coverage is one of my favorite things we do, and I’m glad other people are interested enough to look in on how we do it.

Here are just a few of Whitley's photos, with comments he provided Monday:

Continue reading »

Q&A: Christopher Goffard on the story of Louis Gonzalez III

Christopher Goffard Christopher Goffard's two-part story of Louis Gonzalez III and the horrifying crime of which he was accused captivated readers for two days in June. (Part 1 / Part 2)

As Goffard wrote, Gonzalez was arrested and charged with brutally assaulting his ex-girlfriend, the mother of his child. Readers come to learn that Gonzalez was ultimately exonerated, with the court granting him a rare Declaration of Factual Innocence.

Goffard talked with colleagues about the story, and how he reported and wrote it. Questions from editors and fellow reporters, along with Goffard's responses, follow.

Introduction by Goffard:

The story came as a tip from a source who said, "I have this case that you're not going to believe. It's about an innocent man wrongly accused of a terrible crime, and he spent time in jail for it."

Like you, I get letters every week from "innocent" men at places like San Quentin and Soledad, and they aren't immediately exciting. The source said, "It's also a nasty custody dispute." Now, those are notoriously messy cases that it's usually wise to not get involved in.

Then I saw this document that I had never seen in all my years of covering cops and courts. I spent a lot of my career in courtrooms, and I had never seen a Declaration of Factual Innocence.

Continue reading »

Behind the lens: Barbara Davidson in Africa


Barbara Davidson's photo on Thursday's front page of a Somali mother sitting with her severely malnourished 1-year-old son caught the eye of a number of readers.

"Best, most real and relevant action of L.A. Times this year," wrote George Thomas of Los Angeles. "PLEASE do more in-depth, real-importance content like this -- SIMPLE pictorial connections like this. What a picture!"

And Sable Crow tweeted, "Speaking of incredible images @latimes, this one stopped me in my tracks."

Davidson described how she wound up covering the famine in Africa, and how she encountered Hawa Barre Osman and her son in a refugee camp in Kenya, in a post on the Framework blog.

--Deirdre Edgar

Photo credit: Barbara Davidson / Los Angeles Times


Russ Stanton, sports photographer? For the day, anyway


Editor Russ Stanton was talking about the Dodgers game he attended Tuesday night. It was an unusual game, he said -- unusual that the Dodgers won, and unusual that they scored a lot of runs.

It also was unusual that Stanton shot the photo (above) that ran with the Dodgers-Tigers game story in Wednesday's Sports section.

Stanton accompanied Times photographer Gary Friedman to the game as a sort of apprentice.

This was the second time he'd gone on a ride-along with a photographer-- the first was in February 2010, to the mudslides in La Canada Flintridge that followed the Station Fire.

Stanton said he'd been wanting to do it again. "I don’t ever want to get too far from the daily process," he said.

Since he’s a "huge baseball fan" and had learned that Friedman was a Detroit fan, they made plans for Stanton to go along to Tuesday's game.

The pair arrived at Dodger Stadium about two hours before game time and "schlepped in about 80 to 100 pounds of gear," including four cameras. "I was Gary’s caddy," Stanton said.

Friedman set up remote cameras in the first- and third-base wells. "Knowing I had an able-bodied assistant (who carried his weight big-time carrying large camera lenses) in Russ, I could place more remote cameras to increase my (photographic) batting average," Friedman said in an email.

He was going to shoot the fourth camera himself from the first-base well, where Stanton would watch with him. But the plan changed when the remote on the third-base camera wouldn't work from across the field.

"The third-base well is right by the Dodgers dugout, so I said, 'I'll take it!'" Stanton said. He said Friedman did all the work by mounting the camera, while he just operated the remote.

"Being a serious baseball fan, Russ knows the game thoroughly, so he knew when to trigger the cameras," Friedman said.

"I shot the two lefties, [James] Loney and [Andre] Ethier, and Ethier did hit a home run," Stanton added.

But Stanton said he also found himself watching the game and forgetting to shoot. On one play, a Tigers player hit a line drive down the third-base side. "I didn’t get the shot," he said. But he said there also were photographers with him from MLB and from Getty Images, "and they didn’t get the shot either."

Friedman transmitted photos back to the newsroom twice during the game, and Stanton marveled at the process of photo editing on the fly.

He said that he thought the photo was going to run at three columns but that it was downsized when a story came in longer than expected. "Now I know how the photographers feel," he joked.

But it was no matter: "Suffice it to say, I had a blast."

--Deirdre Edgar

Photo: Dodger Aaron Miles is about to be forced out in the second inning of Tuesday's Dodgers-Tigers game. Credit: Russ Stanton / Los Angeles Times


Behind the scenes of the Jaycee Dugard editorial

Ever wondered how an editorial comes to be?

The Opinion L.A. blog posted excerpts of an email discussion among members of the editorial board about an upcoming memoir by Jaycee Dugard, who was kidnapped as a child and held for 18 years by her captors. She was repeatedly raped and bore two children.

Was it "sad and strange" for her to write such an account, and so soon?, Editorial Page Editor Nicholas Goldberg wondered in his opening email to the board. 

Michael McGough said he agreed, but that it would be "strange to seem to lecture her on deciding when to tell her story."

And Karin Klein added, "Her public persona has been that of victim. ... This is a chance to emerge from that embarrassed privacy, to assert some self-control over a life that has had little to none, and perhaps to have fame based on the image of her as a strong survivor, and one who wrote a book."

The discussion, which lasted about an hour, led to Wednesday's editorial, "The Jaycee Dugard Story."


Tracking down an actress' age for her obituary

In a post on the Afterword blog, obituaries writer Valerie J. Nelson explains the process of tracking down the age of Yvette Vickers, a former Playboy playmate and B-movie actress who was found dead in her Benedict Canyon home.

The challenge, as Nelson describes it: "Actresses, more than anyone I write about, 'prevaricate' about their age."

Indeed, as Nelson recounts, Vickers went from being 74 to 82. Nelson's full post.


Remote cameras make these shots a ... slam dunk


After viewing this photo by Wally Skalij on Wednesday's Sports cover, reader Andrea Goettinger emailed The Times:

"The photo of Kobe Bryant pulling off a dunk over Emeka Okafor of the Hornets in the April 27 edition is awe-inspiring. Where was he shooting from -- the top of the backboard? Kudos to Wally Skalij on one of the best sports photos I've seen in a long time."

Deputy Managing Editor Colin Crawford, who oversees the photography department, answered for Skalij, who is traveling: The photographer wasn't on top of the backboard -- but his camera was.

The Framework blog described the remote camera setup at Lakers games in an October post: "One photographer + 3 cameras = awesome angles"

--Deirdre Edgar

Behind The Times' coverage in Egypt


The Times has been covering the historic events in Egypt that began Jan. 25 with demonstrations in Tahrir Square and led to the resignation of President Hosni Mubarak on Friday.

Readers who have been following the reporting have appreciated the depth of coverage. Tony Ransdell of West Hills is one who wrote to The Times:

“I don't know how you have been able to produce the in-depth, insightful editorial coverage of the momentous events in Egypt that you've accomplished over the past couple of weeks,” he wrote. “This is an example of why the Los Angeles Times is still a great newspaper. Thank you for doing your job so superbly!”

Charity B. Gourley of Santa Barbara is another reader who e-mailed to say thank you:

“From the first day of this drama, the L.A. Times sent numerous journalists to cover events from a variety of perspectives. These journalists not only risked their own safety to record history as it was happening, but their writings were extraordinarily lucid and brilliant,” she wrote. “Thanks also to the staff at home who undoubtedly labored overtime behind the scenes to get these concise reports to your readers.”

Editor Russ Stanton acknowledged the staff involved in the coverage in a note to the newsroom Saturday. As he noted, The Times’ coverage of Egypt did not begin Jan. 25; Cairo bureau chief Jeffrey Fleishman has been reporting from the country for three years. And as Gourley guessed, there is a large cast working behind the scenes to produce the coverage.

Following is Stanton’s memo to the newsroom:

Continue reading »

Behind the lens: Photos from a Rose Parade float


In this video by Myung J. Chun, Times photographer Gary Friedman describes the work that went into capturing Sunday's front-page photo of the Natural Balance Pet Foods float in the 2011 Rose Parade.


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