Kenneth Irby

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Kenny founded Poynter's photojournalism program in 1995. He teaches in seminars and consults in areas of photojournalism, leadership, ethics and diversity.


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Commentary: Obama’s moving message includes lessons for journalists

Irby is a senior faculty member at The Poynter Institute. Irby is also an itinerant elder in the African Methodist Episcopal Church and pastors the congregation at Historic Bethel in St. Petersburg, Florida.

President Barack Obama sings "Amazing Grace" during services honoring the life of Rev. Clementa Pinckney last Friday at the College of Charleston TD Arena in Charleston, S.C.. Pinckney was one of the nine people killed in the shooting at Emanuel AME Church last week in Charleston. (AP Photo/David Goldman)

President Barack Obama sings “Amazing Grace” during services honoring the life of Rev. Clementa Pinckney last Friday at the College of Charleston TD Arena in Charleston, S.C.. Pinckney was one of the nine people killed in the shooting at Emanuel AME Church last week in Charleston. (AP Photo/David Goldman)

There was never a question that President Barack Obama had soul.

Never a question he had swag.

This weekend, in his nearly 40-minute proclamation on race eulogizing pastor Rev. Clementa C. Pinckney, Obama revealed his spirit.

And if that was not enough, he provided a few life lessons that can also be applied by journalists as they seek to ferret out important untold narratives that help the nation move from despair to resilience. Read more

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Opinion: The door is open for restoring America’s race narrative

Sen. Clementa Pinckney's wife Jennifer Pinckney, right, and daughters Eliana, left, and Malana walk in for his funeral service, Friday, June 26, 2015, in Charleston, S.C.  (AP Photo/David Goldman)

Sen. Clementa Pinckney’s wife Jennifer Pinckney, right, and daughters Eliana, left, and Malana walk in for his funeral service, Friday, June 26, 2015, in Charleston, S.C. (AP Photo/David Goldman)

On the pastoral grounds of Peace Village, 873 miles north, via I-95, from Charleston, South Carolina, I too am remembering the life of the Honorable Rev. Clementa Carlos Pinckney, who was martyred last week in the basement of Charleston’s Mother Emanuel A.M.E. Church with 8 other faithful members.

On the morning of his “Home Going” celebration, the national narrative of his life is clear and consistent. Brother, Reverend Pinckney’s life as a son, husband, father, preacher, pastor and leader has been above reproach. He is hailed as a “giant among men” and “great leader of his people.” Our nation’s own president, Barack Hussein Obama, delivered his powerful eulogy. Read more

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When deciding to run an open-casket photo, picture editors matter

As news organizations debated their lead image options yesterday during the first of a two-day public viewing for slain Senator and pastor Clementa C. Pinckney, a key voice was silent in many newsrooms: The picture editor.

Given the magnitude of this story and the historical significance, many publications and news sites presented the open casket public viewing prominently.

This is one of the powerful images of the funeral that several newspapers chose to feature prominently. (Getty Images)

This is one of the powerful images of the funeral that several newspapers chose to feature prominently. (Getty Images)

Sadly, many news organizations have eliminated or consolidated the role of picture editors and worse yet, lots of online companies never think to integrate the role of visual advocates.

In this era of fierce competition for web traffic and single copy sales — visuals are key.

The sensitive and impactful decisions involving visual presentation have never been more demanding for media companies. Read more

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How Wired is using Periscope

Since Periscope launched in March, Patrick Witty, the director of photography at Wired, has been thinking about ways to use it.

“It’s so experiential, ephemeral and counterintuitive to most other ways of storytelling,” he said. “After 24 hours, it’s gone. But that’s what I like about it.”

When the publication decided to cover the opening of a new “Star Wars” exhibit in London, he thought it was perfect time for Wired to try the app. And he knew that London-based photographer Peter Dench was ideal for the job. Because of his “great sense of humor, I knew he’d have fun with it, and he did,” Witty said.

The initial response to the stream was strong, he said.

“The viewers absolutely loved it. I see the potential and I have a lot planned for the future,” Witty said. Read more

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Photojournalism ethics needs a reexamination

The latest in the world of photojournalism contest ethics and photo sleuthing took another turn yesterday with World Press Photos’ rescinding a first-place award after disqualifying 22 percent of the entries that had made the penultimate round.

Amid controversy, World Press Photo announced yesterday that based on its investigation, it is withdrawing the controversial “Dark Heart of Europe” award presented to Giovanni Troilo. Troilo, an Italian independent photographer, had received the award for his 10-photograph series depicting the gritty Charleroi city of Belgium in this year’s WPP Contemporary Issues Story category.

The 58th Annual World Press Photo competition’s organizers previously disclosed that 22 percent of the finalists were disqualified due to excessive post processing, or digital manipulation.

“It seems some photographers can’t resist the temptation to aesthetically enhance their images during post-processing either by removing small details to ‘clean up’ an image, or sometimes by excessive toning that constitutes a material change to the image. Read more

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Hysteria or proper precaution — a conversation with Michel du Cille

Michel Du Cille

Michel du Cille (Photo by: Julia Ewan/TWP)


Kenny Irby interviewed Washington Post photographer Michel du Cille about his work in Liberia covering the Ebola virus, but before we get into his work, we will address Syracuse University’s decision to disinvite the three-time Pulitzer Prize winner from its S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications Fall Workshop.

Each side stands firm that they were considering what would be best for the students on the campus of Syracuse University.

Last Thursday, du Cille had “cleared the 21-day monitoring window for Ebola and was symptom free,” when Syracuse officials told him not to come to the journalism workshop.

It is “pandering to the hysteria of ignorance,” said du Cille. “The most disappointing part of this bad decision is the disservice to the fine journalism students at Syracuse’s Newhouse School. Read more

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Keith Jenkins answers questions about his meteoric ascension at National Geographic

In just about one year’s time National Geographic’s Keith Jenkins has gone from director of photography to executive editor for digital content to general manager, National Geographic Digital.

Jenkins will be charged with restructuring, reimagining and elevating the venerable organization in the digital space.

In a recent telephone interview with Poynter’s Kenny Irby, Keith shared plans and hopes for the future of NatGeo digital.

Keith Jenkins, to General Manager, National Geographic Digital and Kenny Irby, Senior Faculty, Visual Journalism and Diversity and Director of Community Relations, The Poynter Institute, June 2014. (Photo by Karen Irby)

Keith Jenkins, to General Manager, National Geographic Digital and Kenny Irby, Senior Faculty, Visual Journalism and Diversity and Director of Community Relations, The Poynter Institute, June 2014. (Photo by Karen Irby)

Poynter.org: Tell me about the new role and your goal?

Jenkins: Well we are restructuring around our digital agenda for the organization and my role specifically is to make that happen and to set some priorities for (NatGeo) around digital media, but also more importantly transitioning parts of the organization from traditional print and or TV based programming to things that work online and over the internet and on mobile. Read more

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Veteran photojournalist talks about going into hotspots

Photojournalist Ron Haviv

Photojournalist Ron Haviv

“The entire world is appalled by the brutal murder of Jim Foley by the terrorist group, ISIL,” President Barack Obama said on Wednesday. “He reported from difficult and dangerous places, bearing witness to the lives of people a world away.”

Around the time of the speech, I was discussing the impact of honest photographic reporting on an Associated Press Photo Managers’ online panel. One the many takeaways from the panel: The role of the photojournalist is often misunderstood. These women and men see themselves as the eyes and ears of the community. One just needs to ponder the disconcerting experience of seeing this focused group of individuals who rush to the epicenter of drama and trauma while others flee for safety. Read more

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How the Post-Dispatch’s photo staff is covering Ferguson

A demonstrator throws back a tear gas container after tactical officers broke up a group of bystanders on Chambers Road near W. Florissant Avenue on Wednesday, Aug. 13, 2014. Photo by Robert Cohen, St. Louis Post-Dispatch

A demonstrator throws back a tear gas container after tactical officers broke up a group of bystanders on Chambers Road near W. Florissant Avenue on Wednesday, Aug. 13, 2014. Photo by Robert Cohen, St. Louis Post-Dispatch

After three days of very loud and very angry protests, St. Louis Post-Dispatch Director of Photography Lynden Steele followed his staffers’ Twitter feeds, text messages and listened to scanner chatter for perspective.

By 10:30 p.m. Tuesday, as the end of the traditional news cycle drew near, he searched for an appropriate photograph that reflected a day of calm.

The Rev. Al Sharpton visited the St. Louis suburb of Ferguson in response to the police shooting of unarmed Michael Brown. Two peaceful services were held where followers raised their hands in the air and shouted, “Hands up, don’t shoot,” and then walked into the street. Read more

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Advice on publishing graphic photos from Iraq

It’s just a matter of time.

That’s what I told a Kalish Visual Editing workshop on the campus of Ball State University just last week. I told the group that it was a matter of time before they were forced to make a decision on a graphic photograph and they needed to be prepared to defend their decision. Read more

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