Rick Ouston Where Are You?Tuesday, September 27, 2016
|Malcolm Parry second from left|
Having been born in the 20th century in 1942 I am firmly a man from it and I live and feel like jetsam and flotsam in the rough and unknown waters of this 21st.
And yet this dinosaur of another age can claim here that back in 1995 I was connected to the WWW and that my email was the quaint firstname.lastname@example.org.
But as every day, week, month and year advance I feel like very much like my old deceased friend Abraham Rogatnick who used to tell me, “I am glad I am not long for this world.” I feel like yelling out that Old Canadian Parlimentary “Hear, hear!” to my dead friend.
After seeing today’s American Presidential Debate I remembered that I am a product of the 1950’s age of Walter Cronkite when I knew beyond the shadow of the doubt that in spite of Einstein’s Theory of Relativity most of the time 2+2=4.
In the last few weeks I have dealt only for a short while with our city’s downsizing industry that is the newspaper and the magazine.
I must point out that I started in that business in 1977 so I do have some experience as a magazine/newspaper/photographer/writer.
My tragedy is that I worked under the best editors and art directors in an atmosphere of trust, professionalism and ethics. In short it was a time of real journalism.
Only last year a couple of actresses (I am old fashioned) that I had to photograph for a magazine for an article about them told me I had to pay them if I expected to have them pose by a car that was in Tsawwassen. In the few assignments that I get these days my subjects want to see the pictures (even though they see some of the results on the back of my digital camera) that will be used and want a final okay.
Early in the game I was told my editors and art directors not to show the manuscript (invariably couriered, faxed or e-mailed to me before my shoots) to my subjects nor to hint in any way of the content.
With next to no exceptions my subjects treated me courteously, thanked me and generally in some way communicated later by phone that they liked my photograph.
Sometime in the early part of this century interviews began to happen on the phone. We called them phoners. Here is an example of one:
“I was talking to Clint Eastwood from his kitchen and I could hear his poodle barking…” That’s a phoner. In those days journalists would label their interview as a phoner somewhere in the beginning parts of their articles. In later years they did the same for email interviews.
Most of that is gone and because it has been gone so long the unwary readers cannot be expected to know any better and they don’t .
At first I became quite excited about Vancouver’s on line publication The Tyee. But I could not abide by the nasty and vitriolic comments that people made. And the made those coments much like in the joke of why does a dog lick its …? – because it and they can and could. Now thanks to social media the vitriol used comes in geometric proportion. Because they can.
The best of the editors I worked for was Malcom Parry who was the editor of Vancouver Magazine , of Western Living and later of an Eastern publication called Vista.
This man who nurtured my then lacking photographic talents in the late 70s could be nasty to some people but never was with me except for once. I brought some pictures he did not like and he told me, “Alex you are making the motions an no more. Go back and re-shoot this and bring me good pictures.” And then he threw a loupe at me. And he was right.
Another time I had taken a portrait of a politician and a week before the magazine was to come out I told him that the politician’s publicist wanted to use the photograph. His answer was short (and correct), "You can give them the picture once the magazine is on the newsstand."
Every once in a while he would find a Vancouver Sun writer to write about the state of journalism (in that paper and the Vancouver Province). More often than not the writer was Rick Ouston.
Now in this century there is no active Rick Ouston and Parry is out of the game. Another fine editor Charles Campbell left by the time the eventual decline of his publication and that of any publication when the publisher begins to monkey with the editorial content.
Fortunately I am not long for this world. That is comforting.