Anyone Can Do It

Until a few moments ago, I’d never heard of The Guardian’s Roy Greensdale. But then I read his callously and moronically written piece on 10 British photojournalists who are being made, “compulsorily redundant” and now I can feel that little twitch …

To wit …

No event occurs – fires, fetes, road accidents, cats up trees, whatever – without someone being on hand to snap a picture. In the real sense of the word, newspaper photographers are therefore redundant.

And it gets worse …

I concede that standing outside court for ages to capture an image of a defendant or witness may still require a professional (enter the experienced freelance). Otherwise, for the general run of the news diary, anyone can do it.

And there, in just a few sentences, lies the problem within journalism – the expectation is that journalism is reporting on “fires, fetes, road accidents, cats up trees.” If that’s what you’re covering for your news organization, you’re doing it wrong.

All of those are examples of reporting, not journalism. It’s a list of things that happened, not reporting on issues within your community.

You want to see the value of full-time, dedicated staff photojournalists? Tell me if anyone would have made an image of Trevor Reynolds lying in his casket like the News-Leader’s Valerie Mosley did. Or how about this image of Judy Pilgrim smelling her son’s shirt after the veteran died of a drug overdose, as the Austin American-Statesman’s Jay Janner did?

Photojournalism – impactful, contextual, soul-touching, community-changing photojournalism – isn’t done at the scene of a fire, a fancy banquet or in the presence of a tow truck’s flashing lights. That’s reporting. Photojournalism – journalism – is about telling the stories of a community so that we can understand what is happening and do something about it.

An iPhone is a wonderful tool, but it does not make anyone a photojournalist anymore than owning a legal, licensed copy of Microsoft Word makes one a novelist.

(Thanks to Damon Kiesow for getting me all riled up this morning.)

Mark E. Johnson

1 Response

  1. Watch your blood pressure Mark, though his comments are enough to make one’s blood boil. “Snap a picture” ARGH.

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