Monday, July 13, 2009

The Death of Photojournalism: 10 Years Later

The July issue of The Digital Journalist is online, featuring a gloomy essay by editor/publisher Dirck Halstead (right): "Revisiting the Death of Photojournalism, Ten Years Later."

Way back in 1999, I wrote an editorial lamenting how difficult it was becoming to pursue a life in photojournalism. Budgets were being slashed at the newsmagazines for photography, entry-level jobs at newspapers were becoming increasingly difficult to obtain, and once such an internship was secured, it was hard to move up the ladder. Compared to the glory days of photojournalism in the 1970s, the situation was looking bleak.

As I reread that article recently, I realized that what I was talking about then were some cracks in the dam. Today, the whole damned dam is gone.
Halstead's lament about the demise of suitable outlets for photojournalism, notably print newsweeklies, is more pertinent than ever -- along with his campaign, then and now, to encourage still photographers to augment their skills with audio and video so that they can be transferred to the Web. (He applies the term "Platypus" to the new breed of hybrid photojournalist/videojournalist.)

And even though videojournalism struggles as media outlets withdraw resources, Halstead is hopeful:

In a recent Platypus class, my students asked me, "Why would you be a photojournalist today?" I answered, "You have to be crazy."

I have always considered being crazy as important to a photographer as being curious. Constitutionally, we thrive on chaos and challenge. Being a photojournalist is more a calling than a trade. Those people who will do anything to come back with a story will be out there shooting for a long time.