Portions of this column were originally written for the September 2010 edition of News Photographer Magazine.
Mark Loundy is a media producer and consultant based in San Jose, California. Full bio.
The opinions in this article are those of the author alone and do not necessarily represent the official views of the National Press Photographers Association.
September 2010, Volume 95
By Mark Loundy
"He's dead Jim."
Neil Burgess should know. He's been around for more than a couple of decades and he's headed both Magnum and World Press Photo. But he's wrong. Declaring the death of photojournalism has nearly become a cottage industry for the past couple of decades. Even evoking the spirit of untold medical TV shows in his article for Editorial Photographers, UK, "For God's Sake, Somebody Call it!" doesn't make it true. The veteran photographer decided to "call" photojournalism's time of death on August 1st.
He is right that the big budgets that used to send photographers around the world on long-term assignments have gone. He's also right that major magazines no longer employ photographers.
What Burgess has mistaken for an industry flat line is actually a fundamental change in the way visual journalism is done — and by whom.
Publications no longer need to send a New York-based photographer to cover a story in Prague. There are plenty of photographers already in-country who can shoot and transmit images before "Mr. 1960 New York" could even get on a plane. Old-style massive budgets have been obsolesced by improvements in communication and digital technology.
Long-form stories are now a constant stream of information from all over the world. Aggregation and curation are replacing the stand-alone analytical masterwork.
What's fading away is the well-paid, glamorous, expense account-toting photojournalist. The journalism is still there, but it's being done by more people for lower (or no) fees. Their work is pouring into an amazingly complex and capable network that will eventually link every person on Earth.
Today's journalists are still needed to make sense of that flow. We used to call it editing, but the skill set has grown beyond the green-eyeshades to encompass broadcast production, info curation and upstream social engagement.
Photojournalism isn't dead; it's just gone to a better place.
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