TCCJ adds two new consultants

The Texas Center for Community Journalism is happy to welcome two new consultants who will help to provide answers for the questions Texas community journalists ask. Joining the Center’s group of specialists are Max Heath of Shelbyville, Ky., and Michael Sherrod of Fort Worth.

Heath is one of the nation’s best-known specialists in postal issues and Sherrod is a pioneer in new media business models. They join TCCJ consultants with specialties in law, publication design, writing, advertising sales, freedom of information and innovative approaches to community journalism.

TCCJ consultants provide answers to questions sent in by community newspapers to the Ask an Expert feature of the Center’s website, They also advise the staff of the Center.

Heath is a semi-retired postal consultant for Publishing Group of America (American Profile/Relish/Spry), and for Landmark Community Newspapers, Inc., a division of Landmark Communications. For 21 years he was executive editor and for 23 years corporate circulation director as well.

Heath writes a monthly Postal Tips column for Publisher’s Auxiliary. He was named to the Postal Service Mailer’s Technical Advisory Committee (MTAC) representing NNA in 1989 and is also on the national Periodical Operations Advisory Committee, and the rule-making Periodicals Advisory Group.

He received the National Newspaper Association’s President’s Award in 1989, 1997, and 2007, the Ambassador Award in 1992, and the Amos Award for service to NNA in 1994.The Postal Service presented him a Special Achievement Award in 1997.

Michael Sherrod has been a pioneer in the online world since 1985. At the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, he created and sold one of the world’s first electronic advertisements to AT&T through an innovative videotext news service he helped manage.

Sherrod founded or co-founded 10 companies, including He served in senior management roles at AMR Information Services, AOL,, and where he was founding president & CEO.

He recently served as the first publisher of, a non-profit, non-partisan media site covering Texas government, politics and policy.

He is currently entrepreneur in residence at the Neeley School of Business at TCU.


How to get sharp, in-focus football action shots

Editor’s note: This is the second of two blogposts on improving football photography at high school games.  The first one deal with how to handle bad lighting at high school stadiums. You can find it here.

In my last post, I talked about general ideas and hurdles that surround shooting a high school football game.

Now let’s look at what camera settings you could use.

More often than not, editors are looking for that one crisp action photo that tells the story of the game.

Some cameras have a “sports” settings, or as a friend once referred to it, “running man.” It’s a factory setting that will do all the guesswork for you to expose your image correctly. 

While that might seem great, my experience is that the camera guesses incorrectly more often than not when faced with one of my many dimly lit fields. 

Taking that setting out of the discussion, there are three settings most cameras have that we’ll look at in particular: AV, TV and M.

Before we get much further, a camera’s exposure is made up of three variables: shutter speed, aperture and ISO. A basic understanding of these three items will be important to understand the AV, TV and M settings.

Shutter speed is shown on your camera as a fraction, or sometimes just as a number like 250, and allows you to record a slice of time.

The higher the number, the shorter amount of time your camera captures — leading to more of those crisp stop-action photos. Obviously for sports, that’s what we’re looking for most of the time.

Recall from my last post: In general, you’ll need at least a shutter speed of 1/250th of a second (sometimes represented as 250) to stop action.  

Example shutter speed scale: (records a long time period) 1 second,…1/60, 1/80…. 1/250, 1/320, 1/400…1/2000 (records a short time period – sports and action)

Aperture deals with depth of field, or what’s in focus. The larger the aperture (the smaller the number like F2.8 – or just 2.8) the more blurred the background will be. The inverse would be true for a very detailed background. A narrow aperture, say F11.0, would give you a lot of focus. You’d use F11 for something very detailed, like a city skyline.

Example aperture scale: (Not much in focus – sports) F2.8, F3 F4 F5.6 F6, F8, F11 (Lots in focus – city skyline)

Most of the time, you’ll want the former so you can single out the player with the ball.

The last part of the equation is ISO, which measures your camera’s sensitivity to light. The lower your ISO, the less sensitive your camera will be to light. If you were out shooting on a sunny day, you could use an ISO of 100 because your camera has a lot of light to work with. Because you’re most likely shooting an evening football game, you’ll need a higher ISO because you have less light. As the game goes on, you’ll probably have to increase this because you’ll have less light to work with than when you started. 

Example: (Less sensitive – sunny day) 100, 200, 400,…..1250, 3200 (Very sensitive – evening) 

Why is this important? Because you’ll want the high shutter speed to stop action, your camera will take in less light because the shutter won’t be open long. To counterbalance that for correct exposure, you’ll need to make your camera more sensitive to the light it does take in for that short period of time.


TV or “S” as it’s sometimes labeled is a setting that stands for shutter priority. What that means is you will manually set the shutter speed and the camera will pick the aperture. Out of the three variables, you’re only adjusting two, meaning shutter speed and ISO are directly related.

The higher the shutter speed, the higher your ISO will need to be. If you’re shooting and find that you stop enough of the action to get a good shot at 1/400th of a second, you’ll need a high ISO (making your camera more sensitive to light) than if you were shooting at 1/250th. 

If you’re not ready to try your camera’s manual setting “M” yet, I’d suggest this for sports.


AV or “A” as it’s sometimes labeled is a setting that stands for aperture priority. What that means is you’ll manually set the aperture and the camera will pick the shutter speed. I typically don’t use this setting for sports, but it’s important to know what it does. If you wanted to show the crowd cheering or displaying the school hand symbol in unison, you could use this setting. You don’t have to worry about them moving as fast as the players on the field, and you want to show a lot of faces in the stands. Plus, you’ll probability need a slower shutter speed to let in more light because most of the light is directed toward the field.

Note: Some zoom lens change the aperture as you zoom in, meaning you’ll have less light to work with when you zoom all the way, than when you’re zoomed out. I’d suggest waiting for the action to come to you, instead of zooming all the way in, leading to more underexposed images (darker images). You’ll be able to shoot with higher shutter speed and still have a well-lit image if you stick with the zoom length that gives you the widest aperture (lowest number).


M stands for manual or massively-intimidating setting. You are in complete control, which is both scary and empowering. You’re telling the camera that you know better than it does, so shut up and just take the darn picture. In the case of sports, I’d treat manual as dealing with two of the three variables. I’d set my aperture as low as it could go and then play with the shutter speed and the ISO like we did with TV. The difference is your camera won’t get to guess if it should use F2.8 or F8.0 to exposure your image. You’ll have already told it what to use.

Remember, one of the great things about shooting with digital is the LCD screen on the back of the camera. You can do the eyeball test. If you don’t like what you see, change the settings and try again.


NNA keynote speaker: ‘The demand for what you do has never been higher’

“Newspapers are the backbone of educating Americans,” members of the National Newspaper Association were told Friday at the 125th annual convention of the organization in Albuquerque.

Dean Lowell Catlett of New Mexico State University was the keynote speaker for the opening session of the convention.

“The demand for what you do has never been higher,” Catlett said.

More than two dozen Texas newspaper men and women are at the convention.

Chad Ferguson of Columbus is the president of the Texas Press Association and carried the state flag during the opening ceremonies.

Postal issues top the convention agenda followed closely by digital programs.

Max Heath of Shelbyville, Kentucky, chairman of NNA’s postal committee had a session on problems related to USPS plans to close many more post offices in the near future.

Two Texas newspaper men are past presidents of the national organization including Jerry Tidwell, publisher of the Hood County News in Granbury and Roy J. Eaton, retired publisher of the Wise County Messenger in Decatur.

Another program set for Friday was “Beyond Libel”, which covered legal pitfalls in the digital age and how to avoid them. The convention ends Saturday afternoon.


Ideas on how to improve high school football coverage

An exhibit currently at the Texas State History Museum chronicles the impact of high school football on Texas. But if you’re a Texas journalist, you don’t need this exhibit to remind you that football is king in Texas, and the king holds court every Friday night.

And that’s why football gives community newspapers one of their best opportunities to establish themselves as the go-to source for the latest news in town. Since almost nothing is bigger than the week’s game, community papers should make sure that they are the definitive source of news and information on that game. Nobody should beat us. We should have more news, more pictures, more features, more stats … and have it quicker than anyone. If your readers can find photos of the game, and reactions to the game, on Facebook before they can find them on your site, you’re missing a great opportunity.

Maybe there was a time when people would wait until next week when your paper came out for game news. No longer. But the same digital media that make everyone a publisher also give us some great opportunities to take the lead in covering high school football.

Here are some resources that will help you re-think what you’re doing to cover games:

Take time to read Steve Buttry’s great piece on Tweeting and liveblogging high school football. And even if Twitter isn’t that big in your town, you can use your game coverage to build your Twitter audience – and then use Twitter to promote everything from your website to your upcoming editions. Run house ads to say you’ll be Tweeting the game, and remind anyone with a computer that Twitter is free and starting an account takes only minutes. And as Steve shares in this blog, you’re not just Tweeting the game yourself – you will “curate” the Tweets of others by establishing a hashtag where everyone in the stands with a smartphone can comment on what’s going on in the game itself. Check out Steve’s blogpost – it’ll get you started. And if you already have a “Twitter presence” at your high school games, or if you’re liveblogging them, let us know at the Center by emailing [email protected]. We’d like to share your story.

Looking to improve your photos of the games? The Center is publishing a series on sports photography by Texas photojournalist Jason Fochtman. Check out his first blog on photography in poorly lit stadiums – if you haven’t seen it already – and watch for Jason’s future pieces.

And take time to re-evaluate your coverage in general to make sure you’re getting everything possible out of the games, and attracting as many readers – and advertisers – as you can. A good way to do that is by looking at Andrew Chavez’ blog post on football coverage that ran earlier on the TCCJ website.

You won’t want to do everything in this grab-bag of ideas – but if you find only one or two that will work at your paper, you’ll be attracting more high school football fans to your website and your newspaper.