By McKenna Morin ’19
If there are thousands of pictures of one event, is one picture still worth a thousand words? With the rise in social media like Snapchat and Instagram, professional photojournalists are asking this question quite often. Due to this abundance, citizen photojournalism is becoming quite the rage and it is mainly causing problems for professional photojournalists.
With the increased amount of amateur photographers and photojournalist, the numbers of images from newsworthy events are abundant. From people seeking out these events to accidently stumbling upon them, the want to capture extraordinary events is universal. As a journalism major, photography minor, there is a constant worry of being unable to find work after college in a field that seems like anyone can work in with or without a degree. Why spend thousands of dollars for training and a piece of paper that states my qualifications when I could just buy a decent camera and go around taking pictures of everything? The title of ‘professional’ doesn’t seem to matter as much anymore.
In an interview led by Jeremy Lybarger from Mother Jones, photojournalist, author and Pulitzer Prize nominee Fred Ritchin discussed the need of professional photographers and those being laid off.
“There is enormous need for professionals who know how to tell stories with narrative punch and nuance, who can work proactively and not just reactively, and whose approach is multi-faceted,” Ritchin said. “We need more ‘useful photographers.’ Given today’s budgets for journalism, my guess is that quite a few photographers will be fired in the near future”
The escalation in citizen journalism may be seen as a good thing to Editors-In-Chiefs, CEOs and others who write the paychecks because they can write less of them. News sources such as the Chicago Tribune and CNN have recently laid off photojournalists and instead invested in programs like CNN’s iReport. This program was specifically designed for citizen journalism and photojournalism, allowing people to capture news and send it to CNN. CNN claimed that the “impact of user-generated content and social media…in breaking news,” was one of the reasons they laid off several photographers in 2011.
Citizen photojournalism is spreading fast around the country and taking out photojournalists’ jobs as it goes. According to the Pew Research Center and the American Society of News Editors, the number of photojournalists, artists and videographer’s jobs had been cut almost in half from the year 2000 to 2012. Those cut measure up to a staggering 43 percent. However, 18 percent of that was cut from 2010 to 2012 alone.
While it is great to involve the community in the news, it is detrimental to this field of work. All news sources aim to give the audience what it wants. What’s a better way to do that than to have the audience give the news straight to the news outlets themselves? The only problem with this is that it takes out the people who are trained and have studied how to be a photojournalist for years. If publishers limit the amount of citizen photojournalism publications, professionals can start to get back into the field they were trained for.
Seeing the layoff numbers and hearing stories from professionals, can cause college students to second guess their choice of major and intended filed of work. Everything taught to photojournalists and journalists alike is about having integrity, thinking ethically and being truthful. That is what makes a good photojournalist. Untrained people that tweet photos to a news outlet don’t have these refined skills. With photos from citizens who have no stake in their publication, how can the audience expect reliability and authenticity?