The Demise of Photojournalism Has Been Greatly Exaggerated

It’s been an incessant drumbeat in recent months: Professional photographers are going the way of the camera obscura. Crowdsourcing is the future.

In its June 2006 issue, Wired magazine defined “crowdsourcing” as “the new pool of cheap labor provided by everyday people using their spare cycles to create content, solve problems and even do corporate R & D.” Wired editor Jeff Howe, who coined the term “crowdsourcing,” singled out stock photographers among those who will be hurt most by the trend.

Now Dan Gillmor is hammering nails in the coffin of the professional photojournalist.

How can people who cover breaking news for a living begin to compete? They can’t possibly be everywhere at once. They can compete only on the stories where they are physically present — and, in the immediate future, by being relatively trusted sources … Is it so sad that the professionals will have more trouble making a living this way in coming years? To them, it must be — and I have friends in the business, which makes this painful to write in some ways … The photojournalist’s job may be history before long.

Andy Goetze points out some of the fallacies in Gillmor’s argument:

No question that the conditions have changed for the majority of photojournalists and no question that his article, as far as it refers to the phenomenon and the importance of the citizen amateur camera witness, is excellent. But at second sight, Gillmor is confusing the issue. Being only an eyewitness with a 3 or 5 MP camera phone in the hands, under literally no circumstances, is comparable to the full coverage of an event through a professional photojournalist.

Without dismissing the impact of citizen photojournalism ventures such as Scoopt — which recently integrated Flickr members into its business model — ultimately, there’s no substitute for talent. Superior quality translates into superior value, and we don’t expect that to change.

[tags]john chapnick, andy goetze, dan gillmor, photojournalism[/tags]

3 Responses to “The Demise of Photojournalism Has Been Greatly Exaggerated”

  1. Dan who?

  2. Dan Gillmor?

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