Saturday, April 20, 2013

There Are Not Ten Million Photojournalists with iPhones

Contrary to the recent smartphone ad, anyone with a camera of some sort is not a "photojournalist," for the same reason that someone with a stethoscope is not a doctor.  They are people with cameras who might make an image of something happening, and like fish roe, one in ten-thousand may survive to become a decent picture.

With the recent events around the Boston Marathon bombing, there has been a useful illustration and, secondarily, reaction to emphasize this point.  Kenneth Jarecke made the point extremely well in his blog, and even one of the photographers there, the man who made what may become the iconographic images of the initial event, said it very clearly and well in an interview with Poynter.

"What newspapers and professional journalists need to realize, and the world has to realize," John Tlumacki said at the very end of the piece, "is that we are news photographers, not somebody out there with an iPhone and a camera, jumping over people to put images on YouTube. Our job is act as professionals and to show the world images that they can’t see because they aren’t there.

"I’m so sick of citizen journalism, which kind of dilutes the real professionals’ work. I am promoting real journalism, because I think that what we do is kind of unappreciated and slips into the background."

I recently did a book review for NPPA's News Photographer magazine that, I fear, morphed into a rant about one-man-bands in television news and all the other ills (many corporate driven in a blind, uneducated effort to save a few pennies) that have begun to grind my gears recently.  In it, I cited an event I experienced, where a TV station executive blithely announced to his news staff, including a number of photographers, that "all the best news pictures through history were shot by amateurs." He smiled, as if to soften the blow, and began to run on for a while about the Zapruder Film.

We can laugh about it, we can hope it goes away when the truth becomes obvious, we can scream and weep about it, but I can't help but sense that this is all just a part of the coarsening and decay of the quality of journalism and news.