Teaching Examples

Doom and gloom for photojournalism?
December 8, 2006, 1:35 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

A slideshow from Yahoo! News — In the Wake of the Coup — is wholly composed of photos from Flickr. It is designed and produced by Chris Strimbu (Yahoo! News multimedia producer) using an audio report from Dan Caspersz, who is described as a Briton living in Bangkok. The Flickr photographers are credited in small type at the upper left corner of their pictures.

If you use Flickr’s Advanced Search page, you can opt to search only for photos for which the Flickr user has granted permission. You can “find content to use commercially” or “find content to modify, adapt, or build upon.” I teach students to use these options when they want to illustrate their blog posts — it’s a fair and legal way to get free photos.

But is it reliable journalism?

Dan Gillmor wrote a thoughtful and valuable post claiming that “the ability to make a living at” professional photojournalism “will crumble soon.” He makes the point that:

… there was once a fairly healthy community of portrait painters. When photography came along, a lot of them had to find other work; or at least their ranks were not refilled when they retired. Professional portrait photographers, similarly, are less in demand today than a generation ago. But portraits have survived — and thrived.

As a longtime student of new media, I have read a lot about “the death of painting” (a la Rodchenko) which was supposedly brought on by the invention and spread of photography. Yes, once upon a time, photography was the new medium!

Reports of the death of painting, however, were an exaggeration. Painting did not die, but it was certainly transformed. You might think of the work of Jackson Pollack and react with distaste and displeasure (if abstraction offends you, that is); you might also think of Picasso, De Chirico, Magritte, or Cézanne. I’m not attempting an art lesson but rather advancing the idea that change is not bad, and what might seem to be a death in one person’s view might be a rebirth in someone else’s eyes.

I’m not ready to acknowledge the death of photojournalism — but I am scanning the horizon for signs of its new forms.

Update: Don’t you hate it when people rip off your post?

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4 Comments so far
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That’s a pretty cool slideshow! The photos were good…I wouldn’t have guessed they were from amateurs if it didn’t tell me.

Comment by Angela Grant

Great article, although I’ve always thought that when it comes to blogs, if the photos link to another location then it becomes clear that you’re not trying to use them as your own. Great advice though. At the end of the day if someone has something to say and it’s interesting enough and they’ve chosen the right medium for their audience, people will listen, no matter if they’re considered an amateur or pro.

Comment by Anonymous

Regarding people jackin’ your posts, it’s a major bummer. I’m sure you spend a lot of time researching and working on this blog. … I guess the bright side is at least they gave you a link back.

I’ve run into the same problem on Journerdism and for the time being, I’m running most of my delicious links as private because I’ve noticed a trend of folks who I thought were my homies, seeing me post something in delicious with comments, then taking that and posting it in their blog without any credit.

It’s very interesting to watch the people who are watching your blog and seeing how the domino effect of spreading news works.

Comment by Will Sullivan

I think a lot of people don’t give it any thought. I would bet that I have posted stuff without a credit to where I found it, but then, there are plenty of times when I post and then I see someone else’s post, with the same link, later. No theft, just coincidence.

What really miffed me about this case is that the other post had the same two (very different) links as my post, and was posted the same day, three hours after my post. And no one else was talking about that Bangkok coup slideshow. I searched it up and down to make sure.

Yeah, the link back is good; the poster is trying to do the right thing. But when you basically are copying the same post, I think what you’ve got to do instead is be brief, just point and link.

I think another ethics issue is over-quoting. I have seen some bloggers quote pretty much an entire post of mine. What good is the link back if they are totally taking your whole post and sticking it in their blog?

Well, I don’t mean to sound petty about this. I don’t lose sleep over these things. But in this case, with the other blog being more high traffic than mine, I wanted to make a point. Because I’m sure there were people who clicked over here and felt let down because it was basically the same post. And it’s not the first time the same person (whom I like, personally) has done it at that other blog.

Comment by Mindy McAdams

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