Storytelling is the foundation of our industry. It’s what we do and the gift we give. We are the conduits for others’ stories. I believe that, in telling a story, that story becomes part of the storyteller. Peter Forbes, photographer and author, said, “Stories create community, enable us to see through the eyes of other people and open us to the claims of others.”
Our cover story, “Reporting on wildfires,” is an account of a consummate storyteller: Kent Porter, staff photographer for The Press Democrat in Santa Rosa, California. His vehicle for storytelling is visual, but it’s evident in talking with Porter that the stories he tells have somehow become a part of him. The tales he told Gretchen Peck were about wildfires, but Porter has covered floods, mudslides, earthquakes, tornados and other community events. A story by John Beck of Sonoma Magazine in November 2015 entitled “Our Hero of the Valley Fire” called Porter “the Santa Rosa newspaper's master of disaster photography.” Eight years later, he has continued to add to his story file.
However, what struck me the most about Kent Porter’s story was the humanity. In telling of a time when he came across a woman digging through the burned remains of her home after the Tubbs fire in 2017, he said, “I’m thinking to myself, what a great photo this is, but I had to put that in the backseat. Instead, I got out of my car and gave her a hug. ... Life goes on, but something like the Tubbs Fire — that's forever etched in the community’s memory.”
We at E&P tell these stories so that they might help someone in our industry when they encounter similar situations. We don’t all run toward wildfires, but we all come upon situations requiring our humanity and empathy. We hope our stories make you think ahead and better prepare you for your own “wildfire.”
Bill Lackey, photojournalist for the Springfield News-Sun and one of this year’s Creative Visionaries, had the right idea. “Everyone wants to cover the big news stories, but don’t forget about the little stories. Treat every story as if it were the biggest story of your career,” stated Lackey. Sometimes, the story is a life-changing event, and sometimes, it’s a seemingly unimportant happening, but the story is important to someone, so it must be important to us. It's our gift.
We at E&P would like you to help us tell your stories so we can all learn, grow and continue our essential journalistic mission together. If you or someone you know has a story to tell, we want to hear it. You can tell us about it at EditorandPublisher.com/Submit.
Robin Blinder is E&P's editor-in-chief. She has been with E&P for three years. She can be reached at email@example.com.
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