Former C-J, National Geographic photographer to speak to young journalists in Topeka this week

While his storied career has had him photograph images of people from all over the globe, Jim Richardson wants young journalists to know that “you don’t have to go half way around the world to find the important things in life.”

 

“Whether I was in China, Africa or Antarctica or Scotland,” he said, “basic human emotions are wherever we go.”

Richardson, 69, who was a photojournalist for The Topeka Capital-Journal from 1971 to 1981 and a photographer for National Geographic, will be a keynote speaker for the Kansas Scholastic Press Association’s annual conference in Topeka on Monday and Tuesday.

“In 1992, our state passed the Kansas Student Publications Act, empowering young journalists to report without fear of censorship,” according to the organization’s website. “Since then, students have been telling their stories that take courage, expose truth and rely on freedom.

“Now, 25 years later, those stories matter more than ever. We gather to mark the anniversary and map out the next chapter of Kansas student journalism: telling your story.”

While many Baby Boomers lament the younger generations’ use of social media, Richardson said he has embraced Instagram. He said of the estimated 400,000 followers of his photographs he has on the social media platform, only 25 percent are from the United States.

“My biggest group of followers is in Istanbul, Kansas and Mumbai,” he said. “That’s the world people are in today.”

Richardson said he encourages aspiring journalists to embrace social media as it represents just another iteration of communication and photo storytelling.

“Being able to tell stories with pictures is just as important now than ever,” he said. “If you’re a student today, do not ignore your social media skills. Those are necessary skills for the workplace.”

“Students I’m talking to are entering a different world but it’s very democratized,” Richardson continued. “You have direct access to your audience, more so than what I did when I was at The Capital-Journal. Now you can just post something on Instagram and they have it.”

A psychology, not journalism, major at Kansas State University in the 1960s, Richardson said he saw the importance of a liberal arts education and the study of history can’t be emphasized enough.

“I always encourage kids to go read some history,” he said, “and not to blow that off.”

Richardson resides in Lindborg and has been operating Small World Gallery in the central Kansas town since 2002.

In addition to Richardson, other keynote presenters include Frank LoMonte, formerly of the Student Press Law Center, Colleen McCain Nelson, vice president and editorial page editor of the Kansas City Star and Ann Brill, dean of the William Allen White School of Journalism and Mass Communications at the University of Kansas.

Eric Thomas, KSPA’s executive director, said the profile of high school journalists was elevated nationally this year when six Pittsburg High School students wrote several stories that questioned the education credentials of Amy Robertson who had been hired by the Pittsburg Unified School District 250 board of education in March. The board ultimately accepted Robertson’s resignation earlier this year after a series of stories in the high school’s Booster Redux.

Dubbed “The Pittsburg 6,” the students and their adviser, Emily Smith, will recount to conference attendees what process they went through and the resistance they met when reporting on the story that gained them national media attention.

“They were told so many times there was nothing to see here,” Thomas told The Capital-Journal in April. “These kids stood up for the truth. When you’re right, you shouldn’t back down.”

Thomas said the KSPA conference this week will highlight the “rights and responsibilities” that student journalists have to “tell the truth about what’s happening in their schools” and “work together to defend journalism.”

“Student journalists have been under fire for what they do,” he said. “They’re taking on incredibly sensitive topics and they consider their job just as important and they take it just as seriously as other media people do.”

Contact reporter Angela Deines at (785) 295-1143 or on Twitter @AngelaDeines.

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