Saturday, April 2, 2016

Everyone Is Not a Photographer

Now, with ten million iPhones and fully automatic, digital cameras, everyone can be a photographer, right? Photojournalism can be easily replaced with user-submitted content (after all, we can't be everywhere, while they are) and what story illustration that is needed can be done by reporters with minimal training and smart equipment, can't it? and, as was once said to me by a manager, if you think about it, all the greatest, most famous spot news pictures were shot by amateurs, weren't they?

What crap, and here's just one example of why. Shortly after the bombing in Brussels airport, videos appeared, notably one of grainy, black-and-white CCTV footage, claiming to show the event. But it wasn't. And it wasn't the only example of crowd-sourced deception and fallacy. The BBC in 2012  used a user-submitted photo to illustrate a Syrian massacre. Too bad it was a news photo of bodies in Iraq. (And don't act all smug by pointing out that I'm offering just two examples in four years; I could cite dozens, but just don't have time to do the research. You know this is a problem. Don't be obtuse.)

Quality is usually the argument I make in this area, but it's more than that. It's trust. The entire concept of journalism as we know it today is based on the trust that what is being shown and reported is in some way true, and it's the loss of that trust through technological developments like Photoshop and the self-inflicted wound of wanting more for less and less. Just hire -- and adequately pay -- professionals to do a proper job.