August 13, 2015

Why We’re Changing Our Name

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To Readers, Commenters and Friends of “The Bag.”

In 1999, I started a political cartoon on a school lunch bag to interest my kids in news and politics. Two years later, because of this thing called the blogosphere, the cartoon went online. And that’s how things stood until 2004 when I became fascinated by the Bush/Kerry election imagery and I started posting and writing about news photos. That April, though, only knowing that the site was morphing into something new, I signed onto Typepad one day and tacked the word “Notes” onto BagNews.

Over the next eleven years, the name “BagNews” or “BagNewsNotes” survived as much as anything on the quaintness of those idiosyncratic titles grandfathered from the short, but golden early blog era. If photographers and journalists, not to mention a growing number of professors and researchers, had trouble making out the name (“Did you say, Bad News?”), we got used to repeating it. If handbag manufacturers wanted to follow us on Twitter, cool.

Since those go-go days of the blogosphere, however, we’ve carved out an established niche analyzing news and documentary photography, with many achievements and honors along the way. As we have grown into a more serious visual, journalistic and educational endeavor, the challenging pronunciation, the confluence of consonants and the quizzical name has only made BagNews, as a working title, more awkward and remote.

Just like 2004 was a milestone, we feel 2015 is, too. The site continues to add insightful voices. Our Salon is increasingly recognized as a unique model for visual literacy and media analysis. As we see it, part of our evolution also involves helping others recognize more clearly who we are and what we do. That is the main reason for our decision to change our name.

Out of “The Bag,” our choice wasn’t difficult, considering we’ve actually been using this phrase as a tagline since, well… that Bush-Kerry election. In the next month or so, you’ll see us change our identity on all platforms to “ReadingThePictures” (or, “ReadingThePix” on Twitter, given the character limit). And, we’re also going to be a .org, because that’s also where we’re headed.

We realize many of you love “The Bag,” and we hope you will remember it fondly, the way we cherish nicknames from when we were young. I want to also take the chance to deeply thank you for being part of this project and this community. Close friends are as essential as anything to a good name. So here’s to further discovery with the same commitment and intent, to a bright future in our ever more visual society, and to good reading!


Michael Shaw

Note: We will be taking our annual August week off beginning this weekend. (Yes, I’m heading back to Yosemite.) We are eager to hear your thoughts on our announcement, though, and will absorb them as soon as we return.

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Michael Shaw
See other posts by Michael here.

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