Journalist Fred Zwicky

Many notices on Google Alert for Fred Zwicky, always on the occasion of a story he’s written for the Peoria (IL) Journal Star (with photos of the subject of his piece). He has a portfolio on the journalists’ site Muck Rack, where he’s identified as the “Visual Assignment Editor” on the paper. The identifier combines two journalistic terms, one (assignment editor) that’s been around for some time, one (visual journalist) that seems to combine the traditional roles of reporter, photographer, and photo editor.

(#1)

From Wikipedia:

In journalism, an assignment editor is an editor – either at a newspaper, or radio or television station – who selects, develops and plans reporting assignments, either news events or feature stories, to be covered by reporters.

In the editorial department of a newspaper, almost everybody fills more than one role. The headline writer might also field farm news, the layout editor might be a specialist in military affairs, and so on. So FZ not only assigns stories, he reports them himself, lots of them, with evocative photos:

(#2)

[from 2013] For 28 years, Gerald McCullar of Washington [IL] has climbed inside a P.O.W. tiger cage to remind others of American soldiers left behind in war

Also from Wikipedia:

Visual journalism is the practice of strategically combining words and images to convey information.

The idea seems to be to raise images to equal status with words (as in comics), and possibly to broaden the range of what counts as an image (beyond straightforward photographs), but certainly to combine the roles of reporter and photograher (in addition to editorial responsibilities). Photojournalism might have worked, but it’s been conventionalized in a sense roughly like ‘journalism practiced through photography’, so that a photojournalist is just a type of photographer. I’m not sure that visual journalism avoids this narrowing of sense (to ‘journalism practiced through visual means’), other than by a dogged stipulation that the expression must mean only what its coiners intend it to mean.

The customary strategies for capturing nearly equal contributions to meaning would be either a copulative compound (like the ponderous photography-journalism and photographer-journalist) or a portmanteau of the two elements (would photournalism and photournalist be understood?). So there seems to be no easy solution.

But whatever the occupational niche is, FZ fills it.

 

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