A LITTLE PERSPECTIVE – Oct. 17 — No picture = 1,000 words needed

School officials report a new permission slip authorizing publication of student's pictures has made parents wary of signing.

The picture on page one this week has a bit of a story behind it.

I received an invitation to attend the 26th annual BCSS turkey lunch last week.

That’s the kind of assignment that a reporter appreciates getting!

Meanwhile, a new school photo permission slip came out at the beginning of the school year. Some have said it was so filled with legal language that it gave many parents reason to think seriously about what they were being asked to sign.

In previous years the schools had sent home a form that gave parents the option of signing if they didn’t want their children’s photos published by the media.

There are good reasons why some people would not want their photo published; and the student and their parent should definitely have the final say in publication of their photos and it is understandable that the once-a-year permission form probably needed reconsideration.

But it may be that so many parents have withheld permission this year that pictures of school events are going to become a rarity.

This year we’ve been told that the office must clear all pictures before publication to make sure that the parents have signed a slip giving permission for publication.

Back to the turkey dinner.

I had two reasons to be there – turkey dinner, of course, and to get a picture for the paper. After all—they had cooked eight turkeys—that’s newsworthy in itself.

I was hustled to the front of the line by the principal. But before grabbing a plate, while my hands were still free, I snapped a few pictures.

I was trying to make sure I got at least one picture without any students though—just in case the picture had a student without a permission slip on file.

It turns out the best picture had a couple of students standing in the background and they were still recognizable. When I sent it in, the office turned down my request to publish it.

So what wound up on page one was heavily-cropped picture that managed to comply with the new rules.

I’m not sure where all this is going to wind up, especially in this modern era of social networking and the Internet.

Since the Times has join the Black Press stable it means we are able to do more than we could before—including publication of the paper online.

So permission to publish someone’s picture has become more complicated.

If someone wants to share one of our online articles it is as easy as a couple of clicks with your mouse and that article is now visible on a Facebook page or referenced in a twitter feed.

So control of what happens to an image is moving far beyond a simple understanding between photographer and subject.

Without some sanctioned process to ensure permission has been given it might well mean no Christmas concert photos this year and school awards ceremonies will become nothing but lists of names.

Not only will the quality of this paper suffer as a community paper—but the family scrapbooks will be the poorer as well.

I still have a newspaper article from the 1950s that shows two skinny kids standing in front of a lakeside sign that cautioned swimmers to use the buddy system when in the water. The reason I still have that clipping is because I was one of those boys.

A revised permission form may soon be available and hopefully parents will continue to permit their children’s pictures to be published.

Time will tell.