Photo Field Notes – Metro (NY)

Metro is a newspaper intended to be consumed over the course of the average New York City commute. Each story is a couple hundred words at most and is fitted on a single page. Metro aught to lean heavily on photos to say a lot in a little space, to be unexpected, to draw an emotional response, to add something the short word count can’t say. Unfortunately the photos feel like fairly standard, uninspired newsy photos.

On average, Metro uses a photo or two per page, compared to the two to three stories per page. Where there is one photo it is attached to the more important story on the more important story. Where there are two photos the larger photo goes with the more prominent story why also likely has more words and a bolder headline.

Metro’s photo’s are a series of mid shots, with a few wide shots sprinkled in. Metro uses a modular layout, so all photos fit within boxes that hold the stories. Text for a story will sit above, below, left or right of a photo, but almost never wraps around it. Captions and credits are generally done in reverse, white text on a black box, under the photo, and sometimes overlaid text directs the reader to the website. All photos are done in color. Overall, Metro does a nice job of fitting photos on the page. Photos never feel out of place. They sit nicely in their modules.

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My main concern is that a paper structured like Metro, with short word count stories runs the risk of leaving its readers wanting more—more information, more connection, more resonance. But for me the photos are hit and miss. Some of them add nicely to the spreads. Some carry their own weight and do no more. Too many don’t give me anything.

There’s a photo attached to the story on voting in Crimea to join Russia. The story describes the viscous political overtones surrounding the vote, and the photo shows a bored looking man and woman voting at a booth. It doesn’t mesh with the tone of the story or give me anything valuable extra. There was nothing even particularly interesting about the people. It’s as though some editor thought, well it’s a story on a vote, so lets just slap in a picture of people voting. This sort of mistake is repeated throughout the paper.

Cameron Young