We have heard over and over how photojournalism is dying of a slow death. Numerous reasons have be given for this, from the lack of quality images ( to which I do not subscribe) to the diminishing space in magazine and newspaper.

Many years ago, with the advent of the internet and visionaries like Brian Storm and Msnbc.com, the internet became a light in the darkness. Cheap space, almost infinite real estate, surely, photojournalism can find a new space. And for a while it did. It had to first re invent itself and take the new name of “multimedia” as it accepted sound and music as a neighbor, for good and for bad. No one mind that some images are being “explained” by narration. Some call it vocal captioning, some other brought sounds to enhance the user experience. There were and are numerous successes. A few are known by everyone : Magnum in Motion, MediaStorm, Msnbc.com Interactive among my favorites. Some others, like the pale imitation of washingtonpost.com Cameraworks continue to badly copy and repeat what others have done. And, in a way, for lack of innovation, kills photojournalism a second time. Because the photographers know they will be adding voice explanation, their images are boring and lame. They are snapshots with a nicely documented comment and cute music. Certainly not photopurenalism.

But this is not the reason of this post really. What is, is the sorry state of photo editors in the photo journalism field. I was looking at “The year in Picture” from numeous sites, from Msnbc.com (still the best) to Time.com, aol.com and many more and what I saw was two fold:
– The same images ( Bush holding the baby )
– All images were from a wire service and wire services only. either Reuters, AP, AFP/Getty, EPA.
The fact that most editors agree on the best images is one thing which needs not to be argued. But that none of them go further than the feeds that they get daily and declare those the best images ? That is to say that NONE, zero photographers, either independent or from prestigious agencies like VII, Redux, SIPA, Polaris, Magnum, Contact, VU, REA, Bilderberg, Camera Press, and many, many others did not shoot anything worthwhile during all of 2006 ?
And that AP,REUTERS, AFP/Getty photographers are the best ? These people, the ones that create these so called Best images of the year, are the same that attend workshops, Festival, that are members of juries and write articles on how sad it is that Photojournalism is dying.

It’s dying of laziness from photo editors. In a digital age where one could scout a thousand website from all over the world for the best images or best stories, only the images that have gone through a wire service becomes the best.

Not every image deserves to be seen, quite obviously, but by practicing a politic of cost cutting (wire service images are much cheaper to license and bean counters are forcing editors to buy cheap) and having a lazy mouse ( less clicks), web editors are killing photojournalisms new frontier.

If this job is too much work, than give it to someone who really cares and will look for the best image. and then explain to the bean counters why this image or this story cost more than this one. or just put links to Flickr and go home. After all, you cost money too, and for what? Crowdsourcing and Prosumming can do the job you do these days . For free. After all, much is said about the Citizen photojournalist ( see London bombing), but the Citizen Photo editor is not far.
You just post the wire service feed on your site every day, ask viewers to select their favorite image and by the end of the day, you have your selection. At the end of the week , you have the best images of the week and by years end, something like “The best images of the year”. No professional editors needed.

Author: pmelcher

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