Hello. My name is photojournalism… and I have a problem. I’m sick. Although I feel the same as I always have. Perhaps there’s something new in the air that my immune system isn’t capable of handling. It used to be that journalism was a respected and admired profession. Heck, even Walter Cronkite was once voted as “The Most Trusted Man in America.” And that’s that way it was!
Could you imagine one of us being named the Most Trusted Man in America today? It seems our valued industry isn’t as revered as it once was. In a recent poll which had nurses as the most trusted…87%, journalists are at 23%…but at least we are above used car salesmen (9%) and members of Congress (8%).
Hello. My name is photojournalism…and I have a problem. Who should I see about my illness? Some say I should seek the advice of a veteran…someone who has been in the business most of their adult life. In a recent interview in The New York Times when asked about the state of our industry, veteran photojournalist Donald Winslow – when talking about “quality” — was quoted as saying, “In many ways, photography became junk food for editors.” Have iPhones become McNikons and McCanons?
His interview seemed to stir heated debate (always welcome) especially from younger photographers who didn’t have such a dim view about the future of photojournalism. So here’s the rub. Who should you believe? Remember, I’m ill. So do I take the advice of a doctor with 40 years of experience…or from someone that just graduated Medical School? Answer: Always get a second opinion…then decide.
Hello. My name is photojournalism…and I have a problem. Everybody hates me. I know I took a pretty big hit in 1997 when Lady Di’s death was blamed on the Paparazzi and from that day on, all photographers were viewed as celebrity chasing vermin. And it also doesn’t help when the new President of the United States classifies us as “The enemy of the people!” Ummmm, didn’t we help him get elected?
This is the first time I can recall that photographers were “penned” like animals during the Trump campaign and then pointed at during his speeches labeling us as “the dishonest media,’ to a resounding chorus of boos from the audience. Veteran Time Magazine photographer Christopher Morris was choked and body slammed by a security guard for leaning over said pen to the delight of a cheering crowd.
Hello. My name is photojournalism…and I have a problem. What do I tell my kids? My dad was a photojournalist…and his dad before him. But now I am at the crossroads of what do I tell my son or daughter? I lived and worked in a time where it seemed to matter. Hard work was recognized and rewarded. Today, the platform has changed with social media and now we have instant delivery of millions of unvetted images which is only adding fuel to the “fake news” fire.
I guess I would tell my kids to pursue their dreams, no matter their chosen profession. But like so many things in life, it ain’t like it used to be…so I would tell them to be prepared to be asked to do a whole lot more and be paid a whole lot less.
Hello. My name is photojournalism…and I have a problem.
James K. Colton
James K. Colton is the Editor at Large at ZUMA Press, Editor-in-Chief of zPhotoJournal.com, and a former photography editor for Sports Illustrated and picture editor for the Associated Press.