Photojournalism 2011 (and beyond)

Discussion in 'Casual Photo Conversations' started by brad__, Dec 16, 2011.

  1. Not particularly new - it's been happening for awhile. But a good read: Where Have All the Photojournalists Gone?
     
  2. A very well worth while article - yet another confirmation that the great days of LIFE magazine are not coming back any time soon (in fact they're not coming back ever). All aspiring young photographers should be made aware of the points in this report.
     
  3. This paragraph is interesting:
    "Johnson says one thing professionals can offer that amateurs can't is ethics. Not changing the context of an event with a manipulative image, for instance, or not adding or removing anything with Photoshop. "A news organization is only as good as it's credibility," he says. "It's hard to control that when you are getting key content from strangers."
    I would think even the credibility of amateurs is becoming a non-issue. Images and videos are so scrutinized and filtered these days and the knowledge to do it is so common, that even if something bogus does slip through, news organizations will be forgiven as they were when duped by the occasional professional.
     
  4. "Johnson says one thing professionals can offer that amateurs can't is ethics. Not changing the context of an event with a manipulative image, for instance, or not adding or removing anything with Photoshop. "A news organization is only as good as it's credibility," he says. "It's hard to control that when you are getting key content from strangers." "
    And therein lies the problem, credibility of the sources. I can't help but think that this decision will ultimately bite CNN on the butt, sooner or later. After all, some respected news agencies like Reuters have had credibility problems even with their "pro" photographers.
    That said, you have to wonder what difference a mob of iPhones might have made at the site of President Kennedy's assassination, in terms of debunking (or confirming?) the conspiracy theories surrounding it. With attention to source credibiltiy, of course.
    Historically, this is nothing new. Advances in technology have a way of changing things, and not always for the better. Tanks replace mounted cavalry. Automobiles and trucks replace horse-drawn carriages and wagons. Where did all the drovers go? And, someday, AIs might replace more humans in the workforce, the way robots have replaced many workers in automobile assembly lines. Sad, brave new world...
    (Michael types faster than I do.)
     
  5. That's why there is the ASMP, the PPA, and the NPPA. These organizations exist to promote ethics and professionalism among professional photographers. I was a student ASMP member but let my membership lapse when I graduated as the dues were too high. Even then, while I was in school in the late 1990s, the age of the professional photojournalist was on the wane, magazines were letting all their staff photographers go and then only offering to buy their photos for a pittance. I think the era of good photography is over, and the era of amateur photography is here. A real shame but that is what you get when everyone who buys a DSLR thinks they are suddenly a pro... The month I graduated with a 2 year degree in Commercial Photography was the same month that Nikon released the Nikon D1 camera.
     
  6. "I can't help but think that this decision will ultimately bite CNN on the butt, sooner or later."
    William, CNN has been using iReporters for years and their broadcast has always been qualified as "amateur video/photo whose accuracy CNN can not independently verify" - basically saying "take it for what it is" and getting away with it.
    Not a bad thing, in my opinion, as news viewers are sophisticated enough to understand the nature of breaking news content and its potential for chaos before clarity as many would rather have potentially inaccurate (or even misleading) amateur content than nothing at all.
     
  7. By the late 1990s, the age of professional photojournalism had (at least according to many) been waning for quite some time. In the early 1980s when I was in college, "P" mode was the scourge of the moment, but I can remember at least one older guy talking about how only a few years before the same had been said about having any sort of automatic mode at all -- and before that roughly the same when 35mm was replacing press cameras...
     
  8. Spearhead

    Spearhead Moderator

    The ethics/credibility issue isn't as problematic as it sounds for another reason - a lot of photos are transmitted from the phones that were used within seconds. There's no time for processing or manipulation, they come straight out of the phone into the news feed. And the article points out the downside of reportage the traditional way - citizens are on the scene of many events that a news photographer will never reach in time. Gone are the days of photos taken hours after something happens or even the next day - the photos are of something as it happened. Given the increasing quality of phone cams, the only opportunity for pjs is human interest or long term studies, or events that require access.
     
  9. PJ is dead in America, it's all about capturing "now" attention, ratings and branded content. Indeed, the medium is the massage...
     
  10. Leslie, maybe PJ isn't dead at all, rather its definition has evolved the same way Wikipedia has replaced volumes of Encyclopedia Britannica in every home.
    It's the same user-generated content model as social media, just on a grander scale where news media now has a limited gathering role and more as a delivery medium until something else comes along to displace it.
     
  11. Michael, do you understand what "the medium is the massage" means, in the context of Marshall McLuhan and understanding media?
     
  12. Yes, Leslie. In fact Eric McLuhan (his son) was once my teacher.
     
  13. Spearhead

    Spearhead Moderator

    McLuhan never said "the medium is the massage". If he did, it was maybe to his chiropractor.
     
  14. Chiropractor or not...the theory remains
    The medium is the message, or massage or massAge...whatever.
     
  15. Jeff, he did say that. Actually, it was the title of a book he wrote. It was a play on his famous assertion, "the medium is the message."
     
  16. Jeff,

    Was there a happy ending?
     
  17. Well, you could say the title was kind of handed to him...
     
  18. On topic,
    As a consumer of photographic images, I don't care if the photographer is a photojournalist or not. I don't care what degrees they have earned. I don't care how many years they have worked at some paper.
    It is the image that matters most. Take all the Occupy content that I am consuming now, the vast majority of it is captured by participants and onlookers, and not photojournalists. Why, because the photojournalists are not there when what I want to view takes place. Or it is being censored by gatekeepers perhaps, don't care. They have not produced the content that I am interested in consuming. Too bad so sad, they really are out of a job for now.
    Buggy whip and wicker furniture makers now, sadly.
    Honestly, I don't need CNN or CNBC or Fox either. I can filter my own content. There are other faster egalitarian distribution systems in place now, that are not filtered and censored by editors with agendas and politics. The vast majority of the Arab Spring content I consumed was user content, tweeted or facebooked or YouTubed. Their days are numbered too.
     
  19. I'd like to think that if you put one experienced PJ in a situation with 20 bystanders with iPhones, the PJ would still produce the strongest images. I mean there was a time once where one had to acquire skills and hone them but like the article Brad provided stated, attention to craft is no longer necessary. These days one has to find alternate sources for expenditures for personal long term projects. Yes, the days of Life Magazine are over (and W. Eugene Smith is still dead to my dismay). This is what photographers like Salgado do. Sure there are still photographers for local papers, but like already mentioned they have reduced their staff to bare bones. I spent considerable time at the Occupy LA encampment the past month. At first it was impossible to throw a stone there and not hit 10 photographers. Some had press bages like for the near by LA Times, but I imagine that most were week end warriors like myself, just in it for the fun. I never thought that any of them might be trying to be first off the mark with sending off images of a particular event there. One day during a march through downtown a LA Times photographer began pushing people on the sidewalk aside (including me) as he tried to rush up ahead. Maybe something was happening up ahead and he wanted his pictures to be put in cyber space first. I'm sure he silently cursed each of us wanna-be's as he plowed his way through.
     
  20. "I'd like to think that if you put one experienced PJ in a situation with 20 bystanders with iPhones, the PJ would still produce the strongest images."
    I'd like to think so too, but listen carefully for shutters rattling off at nearly the same instant at a press conference will quickly reveal some common tricks just about anyone can quickly learn, at least for those types of events and applicable to other similar types of situations.
     
  21. But it isn't about the strongest images any more...It's about speed, consumption among other things.
     
  22. As a consumer of photographic images, I don't care if the photographer is a photojournalist or not. I don't care what degrees they have earned. I don't care how many years they have worked at some paper.
    One reason to care is this: The present situation is that camera phone images from “citizen journalists” are used for immediacy and professional PJ Images for depth. If things progress to the point where picture editors find they can meet all their needs from non-professional sources, this will mean the final end of photojournalism as a profession (the position is already dire), leaving the field open for anyone with an agenda to feed authentic or misdescribed or just plain faked picture material to news organizations without any risk of discovery. This will obviously inflict heavy damage on the credibility of mass media and deprive future generations of any kind of dependable historical record.
     
  23. While online content is quick, I still prefer high-quality fact checked content so that I can at least trust that an effort was made to provide authentic and correct information. There are still quality newspapers and magazines where you can find this although perhaps they're not as thick as they used to be.
    Reader-supplied content at online sites of newspapers is almost without exception strikingly poor quality, basically random snapshots from onlookers. I do not want to see this unless it is of an exceptional event and no other content exists. If this content started to substantially replace professionally produced (text and photography) content (which I don't believe it will, except on web sites of organizations which never put much weight of quality or facts) then it would truly mean the destruction of the media. Authentication of content may take time and money but it's our only way to be saved from the anarchy of nonsense - which reader provided content often is, as seen on unmoderated or loosely moderated online discussion forums.
    If you're already an expert in a field, you can make your own judgments about what content is good and what is not - that's what happens in scientific journals and also in quality media. But if you are reading and viewing content on a topic which you're not an expert in, then you're subject to be misinformed.
    I just bought a copy of TIME on Saturday and they have an excellent image of demonstrators at Tahrir Square taken on Feb 1 by Yuri Kozyrev (NOOR) (p. 3). It's a view of the crowd lifting one guy in the air and everyone seems to be looking at that, forming this (concentric) circular structure that you can see when viewing the photo at a distance. I will buy a copy of TIME for just one image like this. I do not remember any online content of the events in the spring (though I must have seen some) nor have I bookmarked any such pages because the images were nothing special.
    I actually like TIME much better now than when it was 100 pages thick. Slimmer, but there is still something essential there and it's less work to go through it. I think high quality photojounalism will always exist - photographers will just have to get used to the fact that they need to make such an effort that they stand out sufficiently from the crowd of cell phone users - otherwise they obviously do not deserve their paycheck. And it doesn't matter if the content is more timely or striking in the heat of the moment, but that the resulting article has been checked for correctness of its facts and that the photograph represents the situation in a fair way and that there is no misrepresentation. That's what we pay for when we buy content produced professionally. (Not all media content qualifies, obviously, there is a lot of "professionally" made trash media.)
     
  24. I mostly agree with David Bebbington and Ilkka Nissila. Professional photojournalists research a story just like reporters do; they ARE reporters. Not only do they capture great images, they also get the story behind the story. They give us context and background.
    What's killing photojournalism is the public's belief that we can get the information we need for free. Personally, I put as much stock in the views of "citizen journalists" as I do in the votes for American Idol. I want my journalism written and photographed by well paid, experienced pros who work to standards and who actually know something about how the world works.
     
  25. The same argument is being waged on the issue of drones vs. real pilots in the military; I think the two are complementary and not mutually exclusive. It just happens that citizen journalism types of content can only be fully fulfilled by citizens in the same way reflected in a drone's role in the Air Force.
    The alternative will be no content at all, or attempts at reconstruction of events without citizen contribution (which can include such things as surveillance cameras).
    There will always be PJs just as there will always be real pilots in the military, but their role will be redefined.
     
  26. Too many editors and most of the public seem willing to accept mediocrity in journalism today. Stories, video and photography that would have ended up in the trash can only a decade ago are lead stories now. Incredibly poor quality video is on national news, front pages so bland it's not worth the bother. Though I've given up the photojournalism business I have friends on the staffs of several major newspapers. Morale is bad, the work they are producing is just dull. I'll concede that a truly major event captured on a phone is better than much higher quality work after the fact but the majors are accepting crap from nearly anyone now and using it. It's blamed on money but I'm have a hard time believing that. While most big cities have lost at least one major publication most of the medium size markets seem to be doing just fine. The staffers I know just don't care enough anymore to go out and find the stories worth printing. The result is that I only rarely read news publications any more, never look at their web content and spend maybe 2 hours a week total on tv news. Theres just nothing there.
    Rick H.
     
  27. Depth?

    What media outlet are you referring to?

    I can't watch mainstream media anymore, it is a constant assault of insulting paternalism. Newscasters talk to their
    audience as if they are children.

    Additionallly,
    I just read the story about the guy who set that woman on fire in the elevator. Every single US outlet ran the exact same
    text. Word for word. The Guardian in the UK at least wrote their own copy.

    Even less professional than citizen journalists... the images for the story were from a surveilance camera. Just like the
    Chinese toddler video. But in this case, they(gatekeepers and editors) all deemed that we children should only be able to
    view three frames of the video. I'm a big boy now, I don't need my content censored.


    Here is a youtube of an ABC affiliate broadcast.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MI0_cleLDGk&feature=youtube_gdata_player

    They are talking to children. Look at their acting, it's horrible.
     
  28. Richard, the surveillance video was reported to have been seized by police as evidence who only released 3 frames in the hopes of public identification of the perpetrator. I don't think news crews had access to the entire video capture.
    The event occurred in Brooklyn and was quickly reported locally within hours. It would have taken that much time for any outside news outlet just to prepare and get there and do no better than what was reported.
    For me as a consumer, the way in which the story was reported is adequate. It's not award winning journalism, but neither does the story merit the effort of industry heavyweights to spend untold resources to report it.
     
  29. Depth?
    What media outlet are you referring to?
    I read the British "Daily Telegraph" for the sheer breadth of its newsgathering (don't like its conservative bias too much) plus the Sunday "Observer" for some liberal/left-wing balance. I also subscribe to TIME for a US (right-wing) viewpoint. I watch the BBC News 24, particularly the "Breakfast" show, which for maturity and intelligence beats the competition on other British channels by a million miles. I avoid anything controlled or influenced by Murdoch.
    For me it is unimaginable that amateur reporters could get anywhere near the coverage of these media. Example: There has been a lot of camera phone imagery of the protests in Syria recently - access is officially impossible for outside journalists and would be dangerous going on fatal anyway. Most of this imagery is such a blur that it requires explanation by a studio anchor - without this, it is meaningless and open to any interpretation across a 180° spectrum.
     
  30. As a consumer of photographic images, I don't care if the photographer is a photojournalist or not. I don't care what degrees they have earned. I don't care how many years they have worked at some paper.​
    Me too.
     
  31. I can't watch mainstream media anymore, it is a constant assault of insulting paternalism.
    You're talking about American television. You're quite right about that, but then there are other mainstream media. For example, New York Times seems quite fine to me.
     
  32. Me too.
    So that leaves you with amateur camera phone images and the "National Enquirer", Happy?
     

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