When the Subject Controls the Image, It Isn’t a News Photo Anymore

Stephen Crowley tackles the issue of hand-out photos coming from the White House over on the New York Times’ Lens blog. Well worth a read.

I particularly love this segment, referring back to reenacting photos at the White House (a practice that has now been stopped):

But a staged or restaged situation — often rich in absurdity and unintended humor — is a bit of stagecraft that should be celebrated for exactly what it is: sophistry.

This issue has been brewing for a while from what I hear and read and it’s one that we need to pay a lot more attention to. Would any reputable news publication take a release from the White House press office and run it verbatim? Of course not. So why would they take a hand out photo and run that?

Which brings me to something else that has been bothering me … my beloved National Press Photographers Association’s monthly magazine, News Photographer, which is the only true trade publication we have, ran a PR photo as one of its Opening Shots this past month. Of all the news photos created in the world, a publicity photo was the best thing they could find for that prime real estate?

There are a lot of people who question the value of the NPPA now. I am not one of them, but I have moments when I wonder whether there is a clear enough direction being given to the house organ. And, yes, I am fully willing to accept that News Photographer is, in almost all ways, a public relations publication for our industry. But PR is not a part of our industry. News Photographer should be loaded down with the best news photos from around the world, not PR handouts.

Back to Crowley:

Instead of succumbing, news organizations must recommit themselves to hiring and retaining professional journalists. Publications that use government handouts should be aware that they may be risking their own credibility.

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