A Billion Roving Photojournalists?

While it is true that I love cameras, they aren't what make me a photojournalist.
While it is true that I love cameras, they aren’t what make me a photojournalist.

I have said time and again that the demise of the newspaper business isn’t just bad for journalists, it’s bad for democracy and our nation.

I wrote this as I learned that the Chicago Sun-Times, the number two newspaper in America’s third largest city, announced it is laying off it’s entire staff of 28 photographers.

There was a recent television commercial for a smart phone that showed people taking pictures with the slogan, “a billion roving photojournalists.” Another one stated that “more photos are taken every day with the iPhone than with any other camera.” The marketing concept is that you can purchase, in the form a phone with a decent camera, the ability of a professional photographer.

A camera isn’t a photojournalist any more than a typewriter is an author. But bigger than talent and cameras and even being in the right place at the right time is the concept of accountability. As a media member, my integrity is part of my professionalism. My real name is on everything I produce, and my newspaper is obligated to tell the truth as close as we can get it. If we lie with our words or our photos, our reputations and careers are in jeopardy. If ifarted325 lies when he posts a Tweet with his smart phone, who would even know, and who would be accountable?

In conversations with other journalists today, the consensus is that the Sun-Times is rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic. The question then becomes one of how we can stay in business in our particular media, for both the sake of our own careers as well as journalism and democracy.

Due to time and equipment constraints, I made and sent this image to my office using my iPhone 5. It's a good image and good photojournalism not because of the phone, but because of my skills as a journalist.
Due to time and equipment constraints, I made and sent this image to my office using my iPhone 5. It’s a good image and good photojournalism not because of the phone, but because of my skills as a journalist.
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3 Comments

  1. ifarted325? Didn’t I used to date him?

    But seriously. Much to consider. The Sun-Times? Astonishing.

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  2. I noticed that the Chicago newspaper’s decision “resulted from a need to shift toward more online video.” I’m almost certain that advertising played a role in this — you have to watch an ad before the video will play (or something similar), something that couldn’t be done with photos.

    I do not watch videos on news sites, but perhaps I’m unique in this. Most of them take 90 seconds to say what could’ve been imparted in 10 seconds or less. In a time-starved society, I’d much rather see three or four photos and a few lines of text than a video.

    “The marketing concept is that you can purchase, in the form a phone with a decent camera, the ability of a professional photographer.”

    Yahoo!’s CEO famously said a few weeks ago: “There’s no such thing as a professional photographer” (leading up to Flickr’s redesign), which I think was an attempt at a marketing ploy but instead just made her look ignorant.

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