Sunday, July 18, 2004

On cutlines

"A photo says a thousand words but sometimes you need a thousand twenty to get the meaning across." -- Photo editor at New Mexico Magazine

The Albuquerque Tribune Online has a commentary on the importance of good caption writing.
At New Mexico Magazine, all the editors pitch in to write the cutlines. Captions identify what's in the photos. They also create a parallel story. Ideally, the captions and the photos are able to stand alone if necessary. To that end, editors sometimes will use these small nuggets to expand the story - to enhance it - adding facts that may not have made it into the article itself.

Not so at The Albuquerque Tribune.

"Newspaper tradition doesn't let captions stray outside the story," says Jim Montalbano, assistant news editor and chief copy editor.
Perhaps that is newspaper tradition. But know any newspapers that are famed for their cutlines?

I don't. But I can name a few magazines that are. There's no reason newspapers shouldn't do more with captions, considering how well read they are.

If we don't, we're missing a valuable entry point, one more tool to grab readers.

(An aside: This is the most important reason copy editors should be writing captions. Readers will take in the headline, any secondary heads and then the cutlines. This display type should be layered in a way that makes each element build on another. Make it compelling. It's nearly impossible to do this if the headline writers aren't writing the captions, too.)


At 6:13 PM, July 18, 2004, Blogger Phillip Blanchard said...

It would help caption writers if the photographs were even slightly interesting and if we had any idea what is going on in them. The vast majority of the pictures we use are there simply to "break up type" and the photographers rarely provide any useful information beyond IDs, and even those have to be double-checked.


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