Author Mark E. Johnson


I’ve been waiting a long time to announce this … the National Press Photographers Association is moving its national headquarters to the Henry W. Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication at the University of Georgia.

Take a deep breath and think about that for a moment.

If you’re here reading this, you probably have had some contact with Grady and UGA. Dean Charles Davis and I have been working on this for 18 months. There are so many possibilities to explore here, so much potential to better both organizations.

I have many, many thoughts and feels on this, but I’ll tell you why we did this – it’s for my kids. This is my tenth year of teaching here at Grady and, every semester, without fail, the students who step into the Photo Cave are the most intellectually engaged and willing to fail people I’ve ever met. They work phenomenally hard, they fail miserably and get right back up and figure it out. They believe in journalism, they believe in community, they believe in the power of images to change the world.

For them, the last year and a half’s worth of work is totally worth it.

And for the NPPA, an organization I have held near to my heart for a quarter century, this partnership opens up new worlds – from working with my colleagues to deeply analyze the role of photojournalists in news organizations to building even better educational programs to server the membership.

It is a very good day here in Athens.

NPPA Northern Short Course – March 12-14

Registration is open for the National Press Photographers Association’s Northern Short Course, this year scheduled to run March 12-14 just outside of Washington, D.C.

I got my start at an NPPA event and still, a quarter century later, look forward to the inspiration and camaraderie.

Berlin Photojournalism Study Abroad

A little advertising for my colleagues down the road … the University of Florida runs a two-week program each May in Berlin, taught by photojournalism professor John Freeman. I’ve had several students do this, all have had stellar experiences.

Billy Howard Exhibit in Athens

One of my favorite documentary photographers, Billy Howard, will have a show up here at the University of Georgia next month. Opening reception on Monday, January 12 – get it on your calendar. Will be at the College of Environment and Design Circle Gallery on South Jackson Street.


Crowdfunding, from Behind the Scenes

I’m over at PBS’ MediaShift today talking about how we crowdfunded our fall workshop.

Still amazed at both the support and the work the kids did in October.

We’ve Lost Michel du Cille

The news came out late yesterday – three-time Pulitzer Prize winner Michel du Cille died of an apparent heart attack while on assignment for the Washington Postin Liberia. He was 58.

At the bottom of that story are links to his work – spend time with them. There has always been an intimacy to his work, a humaneness to it that resonated with readers. While he traveled the world and dropped into tragic situations, his work never felt distant. It felt like he listened as much as he saw.

Spend some time with his work.

Judging, Helping Judges and Being Judged

Zack Arias has a great post up on his involvement with contests over the years, well worth a read.

I Should Have Run …

In July of 1985, photojournalist John Harte made an image that is still discussed in photojournalism ethics classes of a family identifying a drowned boy’s body.

It turns out, that wasn’t the only controversial image he made that day – his editors spiked a photo from a bikini contest at the same park due to concerns over how many phone calls they’d get.

(By the way, go read the first link about the making of the photo and its aftermath.)

(Thanks to colleague Don McClain for the link.)

Is Livestreaming Journalism?

It may seem like a strange question, but New York Magazine has a piece up that asks if livestreaming is the future of journalism or activism.

I don’t have an answer, but I have some thoughts on this. And my thought is … no. Livestreaming is not journalism. Perhaps it is news reporting, but I don’t think it is journalism.

Why? Journalism goes beyond stating this happened. It gets to what happened, why it happened and how important it is. Livestreaming an event does nothing to add context to a story – it just shows you what is happening right now, right in front of this particular camera that this particular person has chosen to stream.

There’s no decision making about what’s important and what’s relevant based on the facts of what has happened – the decision making is made based on assumptions about what may happen.

Every journalist has to make some assumptions – to go here, to interview that person – and those assumptions are similar to the livestreaming reporters out there. The difference is the livestreamer is then tied to those assumptions, the journalist has the ability to decide whether the results of those assumptions are credible, trustworthy and relevant.

And that’s where someone becomes a journalist. It is not merely pointing a camera at something and pressing record or broadcast. It is the collection of information, the sorting of information, the contextualization of information – the assembly of relevant information into a coherent, contextual story about what happened – not what one person saw happen – and what it means.

My stepson and I were just talking about this issue when he got up from the kitchen table and poured himself a second glass of milk. I asked him if broadcasting a video of him pouring and drinking that glass of milk was journalism. He looked at me and said he didn’t think so. And he’s right – a medium-sized boy drinking a glass of milk is not news and the reporting of just that is not journalism.

But if he never has a second glass of milk, that adds information and context – and could lead to a story. If he’s been lactose intolerant and has a new medication that allows him to drink milk, that could be a story. If he stops at two glasses when he usually has three, that could be a story.

But none of those are stories you could figure out by looking at one point of information – a medium sized boy pouring and drinking a glass of milk.

Journalism requires context – it’s this happened and this is why it matters.

Do journalists always get the story right? Absolutely not. But there’s a better chance of getting it right if there is a systematic process of reporting, analyzing and publishing. A system with fact checkers and multiple sources has a better chance of producing a useful story than one person pointing one camera at one thing at one moment in time.

National Geographic’s Innovator

Nice piece on Kenji Yamaguchi, the man who makes wonderful things for National Geographic photojournalists.