As promised, I have posted the newspaper pages on story about Susan Cantu and her life-saving transplant as it appeared in the Standard-Times on October 7. Like I said before, I was very proud of the work that Justin Zamudio and I did on this project and very thankful for the access both the family and the hospital gave us.
Justin and I went to cover Susan's operation in early August and after the stories had been written and the photos edited, it was still unclear as to how the package was going to run. There was talk of running it as a series over a few days, then someone suggested that it take over the My San Angelo section with a tip from the front page and finally there was mention of taking over the Local section with a tip from the front page. From the start I was against running the package as a series. I didn't want to see the overall story get chopped into pieces and risk the readers losing interest. And if the story ran over several days there's no creativity in the design and essentially gets treated like any other daily assignment.
When so much time, effort and resources gets put into a project like this you want to give it some space on the page and present it as one cohesive unit as well as give the page designer the ability to be creative. I was really happy when the editors decided to run all the stories and photos as one big special section. A large photo ran on the front page of that Sunday's edition that tipped to the Local section where the package started.
It was getting close to nearly two months of us completing the story and the page designer was finally able to get to work The pages started to come together the Wednesday before publication and I have to admit, no one really felt 100% about how they were turning out. First of all, we were only given eight empty pages to work with. Justin had written seven stories, one of which was over 70 inches in length. Added to each story were at least three to four photos, graphics, info boxes and timelines. Needless to say, we were running out of space in a hurry. The photos were not getting the play they needed and the stories were jumping to different pages all through the package. A decision had to be made. Fortunately, the editors got together and decided to increase the page count. I was hoping for a total of 12 pages, but in the end we got 10. And what a difference two extra pages makes!
When I first saw how the photos were being played in the eight-page section I actually doubted whether or not I had told Susan's story to the best of my ability. With such limited space and the massive amount of information we were trying to cram into it, some of the photos were not going to run and the ones that did make it on the page were running way to small. I hated the way the photos looked and I started to question whether or not we had picked the right photos for each story and I even started to question my ability as a storytelling photographer. That's how disappointed I was with how the package looked. And I wasn't angry with anyone else, just myself. I went home pissed and dejected. It was a dark day in the Dove household.
But the clouds parted and a ray of hope began to come through when my editor, Lakeith Kennedy, came to me and said that we were upping the page count to 10. I immediately logged on to our system where I could watch the designer build the new pages. It's amazing how much better you begin to feel when your work starts to get the space it needs to breathe and flow. At the end of the day as I was packing up to go home my attitude had changed about the package and my role in the overall project. I would have liked to see the page count go to 12, but I'll take the victories when I can. Overall, I was pleased with the result. Now, it's off to find another long-term project to work on.