Merrill: You’re not just a reporter anymore or a photographer

Mary Knox Merrill explained cyclocross racing to the class.

In class on Friday, Mary Knox Merrill visited to share her experiences as a photographer. Merrill, a Northeastern University staff photographer, shared some of her stories from when she was a photographer for the Christian Science Monitor. After graduating from college, Merrill had to return to community college to learn the changing dynamic of photography from film to digital.

“You’re not just a reporter anymore or a photographer. You have to be everything,” she said.

Merrill’s assignments at The Christian Science Monitor were “everywhere but Boston,” she said. During the presentation, she showed us three stories that she worked on, combining reporting, photographing and videography skills. I thought the most intriguing story was about women in the Congo who formed a group against rape. I enjoyed listening to and watching the story because the subject related to a discussion I had in my “Globalism, Racism and Human Rights” class a few days ago. Merrill also showed stories about the water supply in India and cyclocross racing.

Merrill reiterated the importance of being a well-rounded journalist.

Photographers can apply the same skills they use abroad to assignments in their own backyards, Merrill said. But whatever the story, she said “there’s a lot you have to think about.” Before an event, photographers must research and make phone calls. Then, on assignments they must decide when to use a still camera and when to take video.

“All these things you have to learn over time,” she said. “You can’t be shy about taking pictures.”

Her job as a staff photographer for Northeastern focuses on marketing and public relations. Merrill said she has taken pictures that range from portraits of Northeastern’s President Joseph Aoun and landscape photographs of graduation ceremonies, to photographs of students working in a classroom laboratory.

Listening to Merrill speak and watching her presentations made me appreciate this form of visual journalism. The video component of visual journalism is my favorite because it combines all aspects of reporting. In class we have watched news videos on The New York Times’ website and discussed the changing scene of journalism. It was beneficial to hear from a photographer actually working in the field on these stories.

If done carefully and correctly, I think visual journalism can tell an even better story than traditional newspaper journalism can because it combines reporting, audio, photography and video skills. For example, instead of simply reading about an advocacy group in the Congo, this form of journalism allows viewers to see the women and to hear their stories. I don’t think this form of journalism should entirely replace traditional reporting, though. But I think it is a beneficial component. If a newspaper reader wants to know more about a story, he/she can go online for presentations similar to the ones Merrill showed the class.

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