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What’s a Picture Really Worth?


I’ve always been curious about the origins of words and phrases, thanks in part to my mother, who – born and raised in Kentucky — was a great storyteller. Either she’d be in and out of the grocery store in ‘two shakes of a lamb’s tail’ (who knew shake is an actual recognized unit of time?) or would drag her feet like a ‘herd of turtles.’

I originally titled this column “A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words,” but then I wondered from where that phrase originated. Fun fact: No one really knows. Some say Confucius initially coined it; others say it was a Japanese philosopher. But newspaper editor Arthur Brisbane, discussing journalism, is credited for using similar phrasing in 1911: “Use a picture. It’s worth a thousand words.”

AGC and past Constructor contributors clearly agreed with this sentiment. From its infancy, the association often included cartoons in the magazine to depict its stance on a political issue or its view of an economic situation. One small frame was all it took to convey one big message. Content from a three-page article was whittled down to one small corner of a page. Several minutes of reading were reduced to seconds. It was – and is – a powerful way to deliver the same message, but in a different way. We’ve incorporated that brand of storytelling into this issue of Constructor.

No matter what corner of the country you live in, your vision of Washington D.C. and those who run it probably resembles everyone else’s, based on news from local TV stations, radio programs, respected associations, and other various news outlets. But there are a lot of characters in our nation’s capital who run behind the scenes, walk beside a legislator or blend inconspicuously into the political landscape. It’s those people we’d like to introduce you to using a series of cartoons: the speech writer, the social media sprinter, PR guys and more. Thanks to former Washington correspondent James Rosen, the man behind the illustrations, for helping us poke fun at Washington’s expense.

Brisbane said a picture is worth a thousand words. Maybe. Maybe not. But I will follow his advice when he said, “Use it.” Storytelling through illustrations and cartoons will be a trend we continue in future issues of Constructor.

Until next time — which will be here in ‘two shakes of a lamb’s tail’ — happy reading.