The Power of a Photograph

      What makes a photo Pulitzer Prize winning? The film “A Glimpse Of Life: The Pulitzer Photographs” seeks to answer this question. What better way to find an answer than to ask winners of the prestigious award? In the words of William Snyder, a multi-time winner, “It’s not a photography contest. It’s about telling some of the biggest stories of the year.” 

     Pulitzer award winning photos show moments that stay with people. “If it makes you laugh. If it makes you cry. It’s a good photo. You look at a film and you see it and it’s over and it goes on the shelf. But a still picture is in front of you all the time….The most powerful weapon that we have in the world is a still photograph,” Eddie Adams, another award winner, said in the film. Photos that effectively use the medium,  images that are powerful win Pulitzers.

     In 1943, Nathaniel Fein photographed baseball player Babe Ruth taking a final bow to a packed stadium. Teammates stand to the side with their caps over their hearts. This photo shows an important cultural event that was an important story. Babe Ruth is considered one of the best baseball players in history. This was his last moment on the field as a professional baseball player. The picture shows the respect that people had for Ruth. This is also an image that The New York Times named “one of the best known images of perhaps the greatest baseball player who ever lived.” 

     Many people would know Eddie Adams’ 1968 iconic photo. It showed the moment when a Vietnamese police chief assassinated a Viet Cong prisoner. This image demonstrates the power of photography in multiple ways. It showed the camera’s power to immortalize moments and is also credited with being the spark that changed public opinion on the Vietnam War. The Babe Ruth photo showed humanity at its best, gathered together to celebrate someone’s achievements. This image shows humanity at its worst. 

     In 1976, Stanly Forman went to photograph what he expected to be a standard ladder rescue. That quickly changed when the balcony and fire escape of the building collapsed.  His award-winning picture shows a woman and a toddler falling through the sky. A metal ladder and scaffolding are in pieces left of center. This photo shows what was an important story for the area. It’s an image of the in-the-moment impact of a fire in Boston. It shows a tragedy that a photo can best convey, due to its split second nature. 

     Michel duCille and Carol Guzy won for their photos showing the impacts of the 1986 Colombia mudslide. One particular image shows a young girl submerged in water up to her head. Two others are caught in frame, one with a rope and the other gripping on the girl’s arm to help her out. This is an image that shows the power of nature but also the will of humanity to help one another in times of need. It is powerful for its duality. 

     The 1990s was a time of contrast for photojournalist William Snyder. He won the Pulitzer for his work at the 1992 Summer Olympic Games, showing gold medalist Jackie Joyner Kersee take a victory lap. In 1991, he photographed the deplorable conditions of a Romanian orphanage. One of his photos showed a visibly malnourished baby in a crib. To the crib’s left is a baby doll. When speaking of his experience taking these pictures, he said that these orphanages were known as “homes for irrecoverables.” He called them “warehouses for children.” One image is a celebration of human accomplishment and sharing the joy that comes with it. The other brings awareness to injustices. Each is powerful in different ways. 

     Through seeing what makes a picture Pulitzer Prize winning, the power of photojournalism comes through as well. Photojournalism is more than pictures to accompany text of a news story or pictures that look cool. The images themselves tell a story and they show humanity in all of its forms. 

Investigative Journalism in ‘All The President’s Men’

    The Watergate scandal in the 1970s is a pivotal moment in United States history that is still remembered to this day. It’s had such an impact on journalism and reporting that any scandal related to politicians is given the suffix ‘-gate.’ It is also an event still remembered to this day for the effects it had on politics in the country. 

     The 1976 film “All The President’s Men” shows a close-up view of the work journalists did to break this important story. It was Bob Woodward’s keen eye with a hint of suspicion that snowballed. Woodward was sent to the hearing about the Watergate robbery and saw that the suspects had a notable lawyer representing them. After only working for The Washington Post for nine months, he went to cover this story. Higher ups at the office believed this would be a simple story to report on a robbery. That would come to be quite far from the truth. 

     Believing he had a lead on a larger story, Woodward looked into backgrounds of the robbery suspects and discovered an interesting connection. Two of the robbers had Howard Hunt, a former CIA agent, in their contact lists. Another had received a substantial sized check from Hunt. Woodward wrote an initial draft on the matter. Then the editors added Carl Bernstein to aid in investigating. The story had potential but management didn’t have faith in Woodward due to his inexperience. 

     With the rookie Woodward and the veteran Bernstein now working together, they needed more sources. The Committee for the Re-Election of the President came up quite frequently in their research, so they started there. Their endeavor came with many roadblocks. Everyone the committee employed refused to answer questions or share anything they knew. They feared retaliation. 

     If the pair wanted to get any answers, they would have to be creative. They would also have to offer anonymity wherever they could to protect their sources. They were beginning to fly close to the sun. Some of their findings were bringing high ranking politicians into the fray. Higher ups at the paper asked for more sources. They wanted complete certainty that the story they were publishing was as accurate as it could possibly be. In order to get this, Bernstein used a creative strategy to get what he wanted while also not putting his sources at risk. He would call a source, pose a question, then tell them to hang up before he counted to 10 if anything in the story wasn’t true. 

     This is an incredibly important story. It shows the great role that journalism has in challenging power. The result of these journalists’ work implicated many in high positions of power, including the president. If it was not for their work, these individuals would have gone unchallenged for their bad deeds. This would set a terrible precedent and potentially encourage more bad acts. It would confirm the suspicion that those in power can get away with anything. People expect lawfulness from those they have elected who are in positions of power. If the Post had not printed this story, the American people would know nothing about it. These are also principles that are important to a functioning democracy, something that all Americans benefit from. 

Putting a Spotlight on the Catholic Church

     “Spotlight” is a 2015 film that depicts the work of Boston Globe investigative journalists. It shows their dedication to investigating allegations of child predation in the Catholic Church. The film also shows their challenges and the hurdles they faced in pursuing the truth.

   An outsider from Miami, Marty Baron, comes to the Globe as managing editor and kicks off the main story. During a roundtable, Marty brought up a column one of the journalists had written. He saw a story about an area priest accused of molesting children. He thought it was important to cover to inform the public. This showed the first major roadblock that the researching team ran into. Important documents with damning case information were under a court seal. Getting access to them wouldn’t be an easy task either. The public would view requesting the files as suing the church. They also ran the risk of losing some of their readership. Around half of their subscribers identified as Catholic. Baron also faced personal risk with recommending this story. The locals already viewed him as an outsider who didn’t know Boston. The first thing he did was challenge a core institution of their community. He started his job making critics and enemies in his community. 

   The journalists undertook a huge task with their investigation. They fell down a rabbit hole. Abuse was rampant and the church was systematically covering it up. They wanted to show how deep the roots of the scandal went. They would have to find as many offending priests and victims of abuse as they could. They also faced individual challenges when tackling this story. Sacha Pfeiffer and Michael Rezendes, both raised Catholic, had their faith questioned after seeing the atrocities taking place in the church. Pfeiffer felt that she could not, in good conscience, attend church with her grandmother after what she had learned. Matt Carroll, another journalist on the team, had to grapple with the confidentiality of his job and protecting children. While researching into the treatment centers that the church sent offenders to, he found one near his street. He had children and there were many families on the same street. He felt that he should warn his neighbors, but his work was confidential so he couldn’t. 

   The relentless church took many actions to halt the work of anyone digging into the issue. Lawyers who took priests to court had two options. Settle out of court for a pittance or be closely watched. In addition to the church making things difficult, the law itself contributed. Child sexual abuse has a three-year statute of limitations. Victims often don’t open up until much later in life, however. The only way the church would see punishment is to seek the court of public opinion. 

     This piece of investigative journalism shows how difficult these crimes are to try. Despite the many hurdles, the group found many people to help them with their story.

   This story is very important and had a great impact when it was first published. The Boston Globe published the story with a phone tip line to the Spotlight office for victims to call. Staff members and many phones were relocated to deal with the stress. This long form investigation also kicked off a trend. Other areas across the world carried out their own investigations. The end credits showed over 200 taking place. This also served as a major turning point in the conversation surrounding sexual assault and abuse. Victims of child molestation at the hands of priests finally had their stories heard.



Art for the Community

     Members of the Presque Isle community are likely familiar with some of Aroostook Partners in the Arts’ work. From the monthly “First Friday Art Walks” around town to the Polar Express event held every Christmas, they work in many forms. They are a nonprofit founded in 1996 with a goal of bringing art to the Aroostook County community. They do so not only through hosting a variety of events, but also by giving out art kits to children and grants to area schools. 

Art kits for foster children.

     There are many members on the board who keep the association running smoothly. They all have their own reasons for joining. “I benefited from the association’s work when I was a teacher and I wanted to give back,” Judy Kenney, a current member of the board, said. She is the longest serving member on the board and has seen many changes over the years. A few years ago, retired people ran most of the association. Now, a number of board members, including the current president, also have careers. “It’s nice to see younger people coming on board.” 

     Current board president, Jenn Crandall, had similar motivations for joining the association. After feeling as if she had a stable career, she wanted to volunteer and give back to her community. At first, she wasn’t sure how she wanted to. But a friend on the board brought her attention to Partners in the Arts. She attributed her interest in the nonprofit’s mission to her own art education: a minor in art. “The arts are needed for a well-rounded individual and a well-rounded society.” 

No Eggs in These Baskets

     Pastel colored baskets filled with Easter grass, chocolates and other goods from the spring holiday. This is a familiar sight to the children of Maine on Easter morning. It is also a sight that children may not see this year. 

     “He’s concerned about infection rates,” a source close to the Easter Bunny said. The state is currently seeing a heightened number of COVID-19 infections. Fears of illness are deterring the iconic figure from his annual appearance. “He doesn’t think it’s a good idea to house hop when a contagious virus is running rampant.  He wants to make kids happy, but doesn’t want to get them sick.” 

     It is also unknown how a virus like this could affect the holiday symbol. Given his unique nature, no research can be done on the matter. Whether he would serve as a carrier for the virus or can get sick himself is an unanswerable question. It’s also a question that the Easter Bunny does not seem set on finding an answer for, given his precautions. 

     “Other holiday icons that are humanoid have gotten sick shortly after their holidays. He probably took that as a sign to lay low this year,” the source said. “It’s a way for him to protect Easters in the future.”

Bunny In Grass Near Nest Of Eggs.

     The absence of the Easter Bunny this year would have effects outside of children not receiving candy baskets. Commonplace Easter egg hunts arranged by the famous rabbit are also likely to be canceled.  COVID-19 isn’t the only obstacle to the annual hunt. Potential snowfall in April can also throw a wrench into the bunny’s plans. The Easter Bunny’s painted eggs don’t play well with the snow. They either blend in or their pigment bleeds into the snow, taking the hunt out of egg hunt. 

     “If he can’t host a hunt outside because of the snow, he won’t host one inside because of the virus,” the source said. 

     COVID-19 cases are rising across the country. So these effects are likely to spread outside of Maine. 

     Unsurprisingly, this news has gotten mixed reactions from children and parents alike in the state. 

     “I wouldn’t want the Easter Bunny to get sick. I understand why he wouldn’t want to go out like that,” Anya, an 8-year-old from Blaine, said. Other children echoed that sentiment, sad over the potential loss of chocolate but not wanting an important figure to possibly get sick. The division of opinions largely fell across age lines. Children accepted the change, while parents were more skeptical. 

     “If I have to go to work each day, the Easter Bunny should be able to handle one day,” Charles Oakes, Anya’s father, said. His wife nodded, agreeing with the sentiment. 

     With these choices from the Easter Bunny, the holidays this year will continue to look different from usual. A newly formed “normal,” a chocolate-less and egg-less normal. 

Helping Hands and Takeout Boxes

     After opening Martha and Mary’s Kitchen’s doors, the volunteers saw folding tables piled high with various foods. There were baked goods on one table, vegetables on another and fruits on a third. Additionally, there were multiple fridges stuffed with various cold goods. These would be the paints used to color the takeout boxes of patrons. 

     Food insecurity is a long-running issue in Maine. According to Feeding America’s 2019 data, Aroostook County had a food insecurity rate of 16 percent. The effects of the COVID-19 pandemic have increased these rates. Feeding America’s 2021 projections show a 0.6 percent increase of food insecurity in Aroostook County. The State of Maine as a whole ranked sixth overall in highest rates of low food security. The U.S. Department of Agriculture defines food insecurity by the quality and variety of food eaten. Very low food security is the frequency of skipped meals. Local food banks and soup kitchens are integral to serving these community needs. They’re also reliant on volunteers for daily operations.

Tables of donated foods for soup kitchen patrons.

     Brightly colored wall posters detailed all procedures a volunteer would need to know. Everything from set up to clean up was in bold marker. The most important details circled and underlined. One requirement that often appeared was the meal serving time, marked as 3 p.m. The time was 12:30 p.m. Two and a half hours to make a well-rounded hot meal for roughly 70 people. Part of daily procedures was to tally every person served. This information is then used to determine how much food to make on future days.