Friday, December 8, 2006

sign of the apocalypse?

To borrow a 'Sports Illustrated' tag line, do we have another sign of the apocalypse or just the broadening and flattening of the news hierarchy with the emergence of Yahoo!News's new: you-witness, citizen journalism site and Reuters new You Witness News (trademarked)?

My first reaction after hearing about this through a thread on and from other journalists: Is this a little early for Reuters after the freelance photographer fiasco in Lebanon? They say that they will have editors looking over the citizen journalists' work before posting, but after cutting editing slots and letting the Beirut images through, how much attention will they pay to these submitted photos after a while? What rates are they going to pay people for these images, what are they making from this?

Please do not misunderstand my skepticism. I have no problem with people on the scene taking pictures on the scene or submitting them. I do wonder if they have the training, equipment, ethics and background that journalists do or should have, but I have no problem with eye witness reportage. Having looked at the first day or two of Yahoo!News work, after the shuttle picture there is a big drop off in quality and content. I wonder what are the motivations for these organizations to push forward with this. Are they trying to involve people in their sites and pull people to their sites, or are they trying to errode what they can pay professional photojournalists? Will any consumers notice or care? Furthermore, Dan Gillmor wonders how many of us will be able to earn a living if this downward slope continues.

All that being said, what are the implications of this for journalism, photojournalism and media? Having read Foucault in college I wonder if we are getting closer to a 24-hour surveillance society. But I wonder what the consequences of these decisions will be ... will they erode the public trust of photojournalism, will the ‘democratization’ of news collection lead to diluting of the final result? The run up to the Iraq War illustrated the importance of a free press, or lack thereof, to question authority’s positions. If no one believes the press because of this ‘democratization’ is that good for anyone?

P.S. - I should mention that both sites, Yahoo!News and Reuters offer good resources on their sites regarding journalism for both the professional and novice.


Andrew said...

The owner of World Truck Towing & Recovery during a nasty snow storm/blizzard that wreaked havoc upon I-71 and all surrounding roads in Northeast Ohio. He and I had an interesting conversation about specialization within our crafts as we made our way to the scene of an overturned big-rig. He made an important point about the need for a regulatory agency to oversee the towing industry. A few months ago, a tow truck operator was attempting to pull a big rig out of a ditch when his tow-block crack, thus releasing the cable and winch system. The tension was so extreme, that the entire apparatus snapped across the road and went hurdling through the windshield of a passing car. The driver, and 18-year-old girl was killed instantly. Had the tow operator been certified, he would have been operating proper equipment and the tragedy could have been prevented.

Although this example is rather extreme, I would hope that editors and "higher-up's" take notice of the importance of specialization. Therefore, it is our responsibility to continue providing the most accurate and highest quality photographs possible in order to maintain our credibility as journalists, and hopefully keep our jobs.

At this point, we don't have many other options, especially when the all-mighty green back seems to be the driving force behind so many decisions being made not only within our craft and industry, but around the world.

Ride the wave.

- andrew

Andrew said...

Sorry folks, the first sentence of my comment should have read as follows:

"The owner of World Truck Towing & Recovery, Mike Schoen, and I traveled together in one of his trucks during a nasty snow storm/blizzard that wreaked havoc upon I-71 and all surrounding roads in Northeast Ohio."