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Turning a ‘blind eye’ loose on spot news

Veteran photojournalist Jason Plotkin got some disappointing news the day before Thanksgiving — he had suffered a detached retina. That’s not good news for someone whose livelihood demands a sharp eye.

Then came another setback. Jason needed surgery to repair the detachments. Post-surgery, he was ordered to lay in bed, on his side, often for as much as 50 minutes per hour, for several weeks. If you know Jason and have experienced his energy, you can begin to imagine how difficult it was for him to be off his feet — and away from his camera — for that long.

“Don’t worry,” he assured me, “if breaking news happens in my wife’s closet, I’m your guy.”

It wasn’t until Christmas week that Jason returned to work full time. And the vision in his left eye — his non-shooting eye — will continue to be fuzzy for months as it heals. But if you think Jason came back rusty, think again.

Two days after Christmas, Jason and reporter Ted Czech told the story of a family that lost a dog, and most everything else, in a house fire.

William Keller stands in the burned-out remains of his Manchester Township home on Thursday, Dec. 27, 2012. One of seven living in the home, Keller made an unsuccessful attempt at saving one of his dogs, Roach, who died in the fire. YORK DAILY RECORD/SUNDAY NEWS–JASON PLOTKIN

Jason’s video tells the story of a victim who felt he had not done enough to protect his family.


The next morning, another fire, and Jason was there in the thick of it. This image was among the best from the scene.

Firefighters adjust their equipment while battling a fire at West Locust and Sheridan streets in York on Friday, Dec. 28, 2012. YORK DAILY RECORD/SUNDAY NEWS–JASON PLOTKIN

And then there was this video interview with a victim who had come home from a quick trip to the store to find her home ablaze.


The very next day, a snowstorm led to a 14-vehicle crash that closed Interstate 83, stranding travelers on a holiday weekend. Jason was en route again, traversing snowy fields with reporter Angie Mason to get to the scene. And the image he captured quickly resonated far beyond York County.

Kristina Waymire, 13, of Baltimore, Md., builds a snowman along the shoulder of I-83 while waiting in stopped traffic for an hour and a half following a 14-vehicle crash south of Exit 8 on Saturday, Dec. 29, 2012. YORK DAILY RECORD/SUNDAY NEWS–JASON PLOTKIN

This photo, of a girl making the most of a bad situation immediately went viral. Using a mobile tablet connected to his camera, Jason tweeted the photo from the scene, and it was soon retweeted nearly 40 times.

We posted the photo on our YDR Facebook page, with a link to a story about the crash. Our followers began sharing it right away. At last check, the post had 209 shares, 487 likes and 34 comments. According to Insights, it reached 4,607 people, 1,061 of those were viral connections. Insights show that 1,392 stories were created from the post and 1,700 people engaged with it.

AP picked up the photo, and later that day we saw it featured among the “photos of the day” packages on news sites as far away as Seattle. A local soldier stationed in Kuwait wrote to tell us he had seen the photo in the Stars and Stripes newspaper delivered to servicemen abroad. This after he had also seen it on our Facebook page on the day of the storm.

And at a time when the aftermath of Newtown was blending with the impending fiscal cliff, we found inspiration in the photo that we shared with our readers here.

The day after the storm, Jason rested. But just for one day. The next, he was preserving the moment as York rang in the new year. And with our newsroom enduring its own share of illness, sadness and death in 2012, these repeated efforts from a blurry-eyed photographer were a much-needed spark as we enter 2013.

From left: Kristyn Evans, Micah Smith and Kayla Green celebrate the children’s countdown at Continental Square in York during the New Year’s Eve celebration. YORK DAILY RECORD/SUNDAY NEWS–JASON PLOTKIN