Danese Kenon is the assistant managing editor of visuals at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Previously, she was a multimedia journalist at The Indianapolis Star. She was a Chips Quinn Scholar in 2000, at the Rochester (N.Y.) Democrat and Chronicle.
I met Kenon a couple of years ago while participating in the National Association of Black Journalists’ student project. I quickly grew to admire her work and attitude. When she moved to the Post-Gazette, I wanted to know her take on the transition from shooting to editing and on being a manager.
Q: What was the transition like from shooting at The Indianapolis Star to becoming director of visuals at the Post-Gazette?
A: It has been a difficult transition. I loved being a photojournalist on the street, finding and meeting people with incredible stories. I loved it even when it was hard and inconvenient. Having said that, being an editor, leader and an advocate for visual journalism is an important job. It may not always be fun but it is necessary.
Were you editing at the Indy Star?
I was a hybrid. At The Indianapolis Star I could shoot, edit and work on projects.
How did you make the decision to enter an editing role?
I love challenges and when the opportunity presented itself, I said yes.
What have your first few months in the position been like?
I have tried to focus on assessment, education and training.
What do you hope for the future of your department at the Post-Gazette?
I hope to set standards for multimedia and do more group project work. I have a talented staff, so the future is bright.
When publications like the Chicago Sun-Times and Sports Illustrated are laying off their entire photo staffs, how do you impress upon upper management the value of visuals?
I think you have to make sure that the newsroom you work for values visual journalists as journalists and not as a service department. Photojournalists and videographers are reporters who deliver the news visually. They are on the street witnessing life as it unfolds. But as you are demanding to be seen as equals, it is up to the visual journalists to produce journalistic work that is accurate and thorough.
How can young photojournalists be most valuable, given the drastic changes in their traditional role in the last few years?
Despite the changes, young journalists should still apply some of the traditional values. It is always about telling an accurate story in an interesting way – that won’t change. Young journalists should also develop a network of mentors. It is so helpful to have someone or a group of people to ask questions and bounce ideas off of. I call my group “The Great and Wise Photo Council” and I have had most of my mentors for 10 years or more. Lastly, young journalists should be willing to learn new skills and ways to tell that story. This career is about being curious and learning; don’t get stuck by letting technology scare you.