For the last few years I’ve been racketing up the business lessons in my photojournalism classes, adding a segment here, a guest lecturer there. This year, I went a little insane and built a whole day around the Business of Visual Journalism.

It was … awesome.

Allen Murabayashi, CEO of PhotoShelter, launched the day with a brilliant talk about SEO and marketing online. If you ever get the chance, go see him speak – it’s rare that someone can keep 60+ students engaged for an hour. We could have had him do a 30 minute encore and no one would have moved.

Stanley Leary took us into the early afternoon with a talk on the Business of Photography, walking the room through the process of building relationships and negotiating with clients. Stanley is a regular in my classroom and he stepped it way up, delivering a clear, coherent and, at times, comical presentation.

To wrap up the day, I went different – way different. Anathema-level different. I brought in two guys from a PR agency.


And it was great, too. Ashton Staniszewski (above) and Scott Hartman (below) work for Jackson Spalding Creative in Atlanta handling photo and video work. I asked the pair to come in to talk about the relationship between freelancers and agencies and they did that and a little more, delivering a well paced talk about the public relations view of visual communication.

It was an exhausting day, part of an exhausting Career Week. And, when asked if I’ll do it again next year, the answer is, of course, yes.


For the last six and a half years, I walked by this office. If the door was open, there was always a gray haired man with legendary eyebrows sitting in there, red pen in hand. Saving journalism, one student at a time.

He was a colleague unmatched. He was a mentor who shepherded me through my first years here. He was a benefactor who, through his endowed professorship, helped me build my program into what it now is.

And, most importantly, he was a friend. He was loyal and committed and passionate.

We have lost Conrad Fink to cancer. I got the call in the morning, he was gone. I had dinner with him and his wife a week before, just prior to his last hospital admission. His sense of humor intact, his focus as intense as ever. He apologized for being five minutes late (his wife said it was the first time ever), he’d been at the hospital and a blood transfusion had taken longer than anticipated.

I sat around for a while, lost in thoughts and memories, yet not in regret. I was lucky enough to know him, to learn from him. To be inspired by him.

But Fink was not one to dwell on what was lost, so I went about my day. Meetings and shuffling people about, driving near my building. I turned around, I went in on a Saturday.

And I stood, in the hall I walk daily, and I stared at this sign. His name, in simple type. Knowing that he will never again be on the other side of that threshold. Knowing that no more students will pick up their papers carefully, conscious of the dampness of the red ink on them.

Knowing that I have lost a colleague. A mentor. A friend.

His students, ranging back nearly 30 years, are pouring their memories out on his Facebook page. I try not to look, but I do. They all have stories.

Our department will go on, of course. And we’ll be sad for a while, missing that knock and question, “Heading over for a sandwich, join me, pal?” That reminder that journalism matters.

But for those of us who had time with him, as colleague or student, we have an obligation to those who didn’t get their chance. Pay it forward. What he taught you was not his and it is not yours – share it.

Walking My Alma Mater

Since we were so close, I wandered up the highway to visit my old school. Had lunch with my advisor/mentor/friend, David Sutherland, where I thanked him, yet again, for teaching me so much over the last 23 years and explained that the first thing I hammer into my students is the first thing he hammered into us – fill your frame, control your background, wait for moments.

No moments here, but I took some time after checking in with a few others to walk the place I called home for so many years. It’s hard to believe I left here six and a half years ago for Georgia, felt good to run my hands along the limestone of the Hall of Languages and to stare at the original I.M. Pei lines of Newhouse.

Lunch, of course, was at Cosmos, which hasn’t changed in more than 20 years …


I have done a lot of non-human photographs the last few months – things and stuff, stuff and things. It’s great to search out patterns and light, but, let’s face it – I shoot pictures to tell stories, and good stories have great characters.

Today, in class, I got a collection of characters. We spent the first hour with Chris Stanford, a college alumnus who works at the Washington Post now. The second half of class brought us Alan NeSmith and Lane Gresham from The Northeast Georgian.

NeSmith, the publisher, will be hosting my class in his offices and county for our annual weekend workshop in a few weeks. The pair came down from the mountains to help the students learn about the area.

And you gotta love a guy who swings a newspaper around while he talks …

Alan NeSmith and Lane Gresham from the Northeast Georgian.