Beyond the News
I remember back in the days while studying journalism that one of my professors said: “radio is the most dynamic media, all what you need is a mobile phone for a live link or a recorder. TV is too bureaucratic and plus you have those heavy cameras that you need to carry, while Internet, magazine and newspapers require either an Internet connection or a printing machine”. This I heard in 1998 and 15 years later we see journalism techniques being replaced by more dynamic multimedia tools. And photojournalism is the new victim!
I have just read on “The Verge” that the “Chicago Sun Times” has announced that all its 28 photographers are getting laid off this week. Instead, the company will train its reporters to use their iPhone’s camera (I hope that at least the gadget comes as a “free” gift), so they can get the best shots in the town. I really would like to meet my professor once again to hear his comments on that!
Let’s be honest here, what a great idea! You get your people running their butts out there, pay them a little extra and make each of them to do the job of 2 people. Cutting costs have now a new name: “IT evolution”. And yes, I have been sarcastic! The “dynamic” journalism has evolved from a recorder device to a smart phone that brings together all medias into one little pocket gadget. And certain publishers are not afraid to explore it without any commonsense.
Obviously, the Chicago newspaper will come up with some fairy tale on how good this decision is. They might say that it will help them to bring information quicker or that the company is focusing more on multimedia strategies once it is “hype”. But whatever they say, it is all about cutting costs! I can understand that 28 photographers might be too many, but not having any at all is just bizarre!
Nevertheless, what makes me really concerned about it is not only the Chicago Sun Time specifically, but how this attitude will impact on other publishing companies and broadcasters. If we keep going on this path, soon there will be journalists travelling by themselves with a mobile phone to take pictures, record and broadcast news without a photojournalist. And during a financial crisis period it will not take too long for the number of unemployed journalists to increase drastically in the next few years.
I am not against the utilization of iPhones by reporters, actually, I think that nowadays every reporter should have one as “a must” working tool, but fire photojournalists is a bit beyond the line. In my opinion they have a gut, an eye and a sixth sense for their jobs that others do not have or did not prepare themselves to. Furthermore, and most importantly, journalists live in a very demanding environment where in some cases they are required to come up with news update at each hour of the day and hence, by overloading reporters with an extra job that could (and should) be done by another professional is the best way to move towards poor, cheap and lousy journalism!
Photojournalism might be dying and if this is the true, I am afraid that it will drag to the morgue the good journalism that all of us (journalists and global citizens) strive to.