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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John White on Sun-Times layoffs: ‘It was as if they pushed a button and deleted a whole culture’

John White’s 44-year career at The Chicago Sun-Times has been rooted in faith and professionalism. It’s a career he refers to as “an assignment from God.”

John White

Earlier this week, that career came to an end on what some photographers have called the darkest day in Sun-Times photojournalism history. The paper announced Thursday that it had laid off its entire photojournalism staff and would rely on freelance photographers and reporters instead.

White — who has seen the paper go through many owners and changes — says he never imagined that his and his colleagues’ careers would end so abruptly.

In a phone interview, the 1982 Pulitzer prize-winning photojournalist and teacher recalled a day that he is still “trying to make sense of.”

“This is what I remember hearing: ‘As you know we are going forward into multimedia and video, and that is going to be our focus. Read more

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Globe’s Tlumacki: ‘I am dealing with trauma & trying to keep busy’ following Boston tragedy

On Monday, veteran photojournalist John Tlumacki captured the iconic image of the Boston Marathon bombing: runner Bill Iffrig knocked to the pavement on Boylston Street in front of a trio of police officers, each seemingly headed in a different direction.

On Friday, the 30-year veteran of the Boston Globe — who’s been a finalist for the Pulitzer prize and honored as the Boston Press Photographers Association’s Photographer of the Year — found that coming to terms with the week’s tragic events required him to complete one more assignment.

So Tlumacki returned to Boylston Street, to the finish line where weary runners had crossed before cheering fans, only to have jubilation turn in an instant to horror, chaos and carnage. During those hours on Patriots Day, Tlumacki’s memory card had captured a wide range of human emotions. Read more

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Why do we blame the (visual) messenger for tragedies?

With the click of a shutter, in a dimly illuminated New York City subway tunnel, on the evening of December 3, it happened again.

Actually, it was more like several clicks of the shutter, and the “it” was another tragic act of human inhumanity.

Independent photographer R. Umar Abbasi was the authentic witness to a crime beyond our wildest imaginations. After a verbal altercation, 31-year-old Naeem Davis, now charged with second-degree murder, pushed 58-year-old Ki-Suck Han, of Queens, N.Y., into the path of an oncoming subway train.

Almost immediately after the New York Post published the photograph of Han’s last few living moments on the cover of their tabloid and their website, it seems like everyone — media and citizen alike — blamed the visual messenger for doing his journalistic duty. Read more

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This photo, taken by reporter Amy Scherzer for the Tampa Bay Times, shows (left to right) Jill Kelley's twin sister, Gen. David Petraeus, Scott Kelley, Jill Kelley, and Holly Petraeus.

How NY Daily News, Tampa Bay Times got those cover shots of Jill Kelley, David Petraeus

As journalists reported on Gen. David Petraeus’ resignation from the CIA, photos spread over the weekend of the women involved.

Petraeus resigned after the FBI learned he had an affair with biographer Paula Broadwell. The affair came to the FBI’s attention when another woman, Jill Kelley, complained to an FBI agent that Broadwell had sent her harassing emails.

All three people are married, and there have been no allegations that Kelley was romantically involved with Petraeus.

But in photographic coverage, context is king. And the images of Petraeus and Kelley appear to tell a different story.

This photo, taken by reporter Amy Scherzer for the Tampa Bay Times, shows (left to right) Jill Kelley’s twin sister, Gen. David Petraeus, Scott Kelley, Jill Kelley, and Holly Petraeus.
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"My editors agreed that black and white got the readers to the heart and soul of the images without any distractions," said Davidson.

Pulitzer Prize-winning photographer captures emotional, physical wounds from gang violence

Barbara Davidson‘s “Caught in the Crossfire” project, which won this year’s Pulitzer Prize in feature photography, features authentic images that tell untold stories, as they capture intimacy, depth and compassion.

The photographs in “Caught in the Crossfire” give people a reason to pause and reflect on how victims and their families have endured the effects of gang violence in Los Angeles. And they relay the seriousness of the issue in ways that words alone can’t.

I talked with the L.A. Times’ Davidson via email about her reporting process, why she chose the photos she did, and what advice she has for other journalists covering gang violence. You can read our Q&A, which has been edited for clarity, below.

Kenny Irby: Tell me about the “Caught in the Crossfire” project. Read more

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APTOPIX Japan Earthquake

10 powerful images of Japan earthquake aftermath

Images of Japan captured after the 9.0 magnitude earthquake and subsequent tsunami last week tell a compelling story of devastation and resilience. Below is a selection of images, courtesy of The Associated Press, Getty Images and Reuters, that dramatically illustrate events there.

The towering waves capture the raw power and fury of nature when juxtaposed against the inadequate ingenuity of human beings:

Waves of tsunami hit residences after a powerful earthquake in Natori, Miyagi prefecture (state), Japan, Friday, March 11, 2011. The largest earthquake in Japan’s recorded history slammed the eastern coast Friday. (AP Photo/Kyodo News)

The eerily placid placement of the airplanes amidst the vehicles and debris offer a striking sense of calm after the tsunami:

Light planes and vehicles sit among the debris after they were swept by a tsumani that struck Sendai airport in northern Japan on Friday March 11, 2022.
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How the Chronicle Herald’s ‘Nova Scotia Burning’ project showed impact of race-related crimes

A year ago, the horror of a cross-burning in Nova Scotia provided The Chronicle Herald with a tremendous opportunity.

Confronted by two enduring journalistic questions — what do I know and what do I need to know? — the newsroom set out to create a multimedia project that looked at how racial prejudice has played out in Canada throughout the years.

To find out what they learned and the challenges they faced, I talked with Web producer Jayson Taylor and writer Patricia Brooks Arenburg, two of the four journalists who worked on the project. You can read our edited e-mail exchange below.

Kenny Irby: Tell us about the video vignettes and how you reached the decision on a four-part narrative structure.

Jayson Taylor: We found that we needed four parts to explain all sides of the story. Read more

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How shopping, prayer led to Columbus Dispatch’s viral Ted Williams video

Before Ted Williams entered rehab for drug and alcohol issues, he was a homeless man Doral Chenoweth saw on his way to the store.

Chenoweth, a Web producer for The Columbus Dispatch, told me by e-mail how he discovered Williams and what happened next as “the ‘golden voice’ video went viral.”

Columbus Dispatch Web Producer Doral Chenoweth first saw Ted Williams while out shopping with his wife.

Kenny Irby: Tell me how you and Ted Williams first connected. Was this an assignment or enterprise work on your part?

Doral Chenoweth: I actually first met Ted Williams when I wasn’t working. I was going shopping with my wife, Robin, at a store at that freeway exit. The light was red, I stopped and read his sign. Read more

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How photographer James Palka captured Giffords shooting aftermath with images that defined the event

In photography, timing is key.

On January 8, 2011, 63-year-old native Chicagoan James F. Palka’s timing saved his life. It also allowed him to document the tragic aftermath of an attempt on the life of U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords and a crowd of her supporters.

Photographer James Palka has worn an eye patch since the age of 16 due to a condition called Myasthenia Gravis.

Palka arrived late to the “Congress on your Corner” event and by the time he did, his choices were not about shutter speed settings, frames per second rates or tripod selection.

Overcoming physical disability, outside of his normal comfort zone, and experiencing the mental shock of human tragedy, Palka captured a compelling and exclusive photographic sequence that the Associated Press shared with the world. Read more

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What Byron Pitts Learned in Haiti: ‘We Are Tough and Delicate Creatures’

After seven days of reporting in Haiti amid unthinkable misery, Byron Pitts, chief national correspondent for CBS News, boarded a chopper last week, homeward bound via the Dominican Republic. Looking down at the landscape, he saw some of the toughest creatures on the planet and noted in an e-mail, “Just passed a few crocodiles.”

“What a blessing to be a journalist,” Pitts continued. “Having worked with people who trusted me with their truth, their country. I trusted them with my life and they trusted me. They felt like family. Most likely I will never see them again.”

Pitts arrived at the Haitian border at 5 p.m. the day after the earthquake and filed a report for the CBS Evening News 90 minutes later.

What Pitts and all the other journalists did in Haiti took guts — something Hemingway called “grace under pressure.”

Like Pitts, journalists have to be tough on the outside to endure, absorb and overcome some incredibly challenging odds. Read more

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