Cameras make you smile more | Andy Hobbs

A camera can frighten people. I’d like to think that a camera makes you smile more.

I visited a student protest this week at Federal Way High School regarding the new Standards Based Education grading system.

When arriving at any scene with a camera, some people react like you’re packing an M-16. School officials — aka, the adults — pounced quickly on that chilly Tuesday afternoon. They reminded me, with courtesy, that students could not be photographed or interviewed while on school property. Never mind the students standing in full public view for all passing motorists.

Didn’t matter anyway. I got the photo from the public sidewalk. Had this been a rally to benefit a classmate with cancer, could students have been photographed and interviewed without hassle? Perhaps. Kudos to the schools for being anal about this stuff. Schools are educators, but also protectors.

And for the record: those sign-waving, chant-cheering students at the protest were salivating for a photo.

At one time, kids didn’t need clearance to have their picture in the paper.

Media releases for students are a vital practice, not out of fear, but because you should know who’s photographing your child. In my career, only one creepy incident comes to mind. At a community newspaper in Scottsdale, an 8-year-old girl was pictured in a ballet outfit. Apparently, a local pervert liked the outfit and wrote her letters about his fantasies. He even called the girl’s house. Our sympathies went out to the distraught parents. That was an unfortunately random consequence.

Still, I see it all the time: parents hesitate to have their young children photographed, or at least named. Many parents ask that the child’s last name be withheld. I understand. Parents are grateful for the peace of mind these rules bring.

In an age when every Tom, Dick and Harry has a camera, the media’s camera still smells fishy to the wary subject. Your image and possibly reputation are in the hands of an entity that broadcasts to the world. The photo lingers in cyberspace forever, out of your control. Permanence is a scary thought.

The Mirror navigates these waters, expecting to be viewed with skepticism despite our purpose to society. The Mirror is intrusive only when necessary for the public good, and we don’t bite ... hard.

The paper’s goal is to hold up a mirror to Federal Way and show what’s happening. It’s OK if you don’t want your photo in the paper, or if you prefer to not comment. And if you want to keep your kids out of the paper, that’s fine too.

Most citizens who encounter the media will seize the opportunity to share in their local democracy. All this newspaper wants to do is serve as a conduit for information, ideas and entertainment, all with a local edge.

So on the count of three, say cheese. You just might be in the latest reflection of life in Federal Way.



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