Worth a thousand words

By Tim Webber
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The Newseum contains Pulitzer Prize-winning photographs from across the decades. Photo by Tim Webber

On Monday, I had the chance to visit the Newseum here in Washington, D.C. While it does cost $26 to enter (the pass is good for two days), it was probably the most worthwhile $26 I spent on this trip.

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The Newseum. Photo by Tim Webber

The Newseum, like any of the good journalists it represents, is extraordinarily thorough. Its seven floors take visitors through hundreds of years of history while still providing numerous opportunities for modern interaction.

I could talk about the Newseum all day, but one section, in particular, caught my eye. I didn’t expect to spend as much time in — or have such an emotional reaction to — the Pulitzer Prize for Photography section.

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This sign hangs above the photography exhibit at the Newseum. Photo by Tim Webber

Photographs can truly be worth a thousand words, and the very best can be worth so much more than that, as the above picture notes.

Photography has always been one of the weaker parts of my journalism toolkit. After this trip, it’s one of the tools that I’m going to work harder to sharpen. Those Pulitzer photographs are powerful ways to tell a story. I may never end up being a Pulitzer-winner, but that shouldn’t stop me from trying to use pictures to help tell the stories on which I report.

And, of course, there was one very important story waiting for us at the end of this trip: the inauguration.

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The sun rises over the Capitol on the morning of the inauguration. Photo by Tim Webber

From our location in the orange section, photography of the actual event would be next to impossible. Good storytelling photographs would likely focus on the crowd. But the best picture I took today was shortly after I arrived to the spot where we’d spend the next six hours.

It’s not a Pulitzer-worthy photo. Thousands of other people took the same picture. But it certainly tells a story. The sun rising over the Capitol was absolutely gorgeous this morning… and viewers could make of that what they will.

The most powerful pictures of the day came later. Protests erupted across the city and there were some truly moving images to come out of that, including some from a former colleague of mine who was in town to cover the inauguration. I wasn’t going to (nor was I particularly physically able to) risk my safety to get those shots after an exhausting two weeks, but I’m incredibly thankful that we have brave journalists willing to do just that.

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