Last week we took a sweeping look back at the origins of the INDY from its founding in the 1980s up to its sale from Steve Schewel to Richard Meeker in 2012. While we tried to recognize as many contributors as we could over the years on the written editorial side of the paper, we didn’t give space to a crucial contingent of contributors to INDY journalism from the past four decades: its photographers, illustrators, art directors, and many other creatives who have infused the paper with life through their work. Justin Cook, a former staff photographer for the INDY, sent us the following note via email sharing his disappointment.

As a former INDY staff photographer (2013-2015), I am deeply disappointed to see that “The INDY at 40” package, particularly the 4,000-word Paper Route piece, contained not a single reference to the paper’s storied staff of photojournalists who contributed real reporting to the paper during its 40-year run. This is a tragic omission.

I know time and column inches are tight, but there wasn’t even an online gallery. No mention of Lissa Gotwals, MJ Sharp, Alex Maness, D.L. Anderson, Jeremy Lange or Alex Boerner. Where are Wendy Walsh and Alma Blount? For all the talk about inclusion, Black trans photographer Jade Wilson is nowhere to be seen.

We constantly generated our own stories and tried to report on Durham’s under-represented communities. This often required deep relationships with people who distrusted the media. It exposed us to tragedies and joy that we will never forget.

Kudos to Brian Howe for attempting an ambitious telling of the INDY’s origin and evolution. No history can ever be told completely, but the truth is that our images and the work of the INDY art department carried the paper week in and week out.

Every INDY issue is the result of planning and editorial decisions. It’s clear that editors decided visual journalists were not a priority to this package. This says volumes about what the INDY brass believes is important to the INDY story.

I am proud of my work at the INDY, and look back fondly on that time in my life even though it wasn’t easy. If the purpose of journalism is to create “a healthy, inclusive, pluralistic democracy,” that requires a holistic understanding of the newsroom grounded in respect, which is lacking from this INDY at 40 coverage.

I sincerely hope that attitude changes through the INDY’s new partnership with The Assembly.

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