In a gust of controversy, the Chicago Sun-Times fired its team of photojournalists earlier this year. The justification? Reporters armed with iPhone cameras can do the job just as well.
Is this practice the new paradigm? An article by Lou Carlozo recently questioned if photojournalists are a “digital casualty.” A main point of the Chicago Sun-Times’ decision, Carlozo says, was to devote more dough to video production (that is, reporters hitting “record” on their iPhones).
As more publications move online, users demand interactivity. Brands amp up multimedia, brainstorming new ways for users to click and browse. Online newspapers become flashier and more involving, and “play” buttons abound. But will old-fashioned print journalism—and the photographs that accompany it—be left in the dust?
If this is alarming, good–it should be. Powerful photographs have enhanced news writing since the dawn of the camera. Defenders of the photojournalists rightly say that taking a photo is essentially different from composing a photo. In the same way that anyone can splash paint on canvas but none can call it a Pollock, snapping a shutter isn’t telling a story.
But news outlets are more commonly expecting journalists who can sort-of do it all: writing, video, and photography. (Imagine saying, “Hello, I’m majoring in a meld of professions, making me one mediocre package.”) This raises the concern: Are we losing highly specified professionals for wide-ranging amateurs?
Drake students seeking local journalism jobs may face this dilemma: The Des Moines Register has been pushing video supplements, and Meredith Corporation has internally increased video efforts, especially in the past several months. Both companies are urging reporters, designers and social media specialists towards videography.
So, I ask: Is dumping photojournalism in favor of video the logical progression into the future? Is it better to be a wide-ranging amateur or a highly specialized professional?