First, let me start by stating the obvious. I do not consider myself a blogger.
Blogs often provide commentary… function as more personal online diaries.
OK, with that out of the way, let me start blogging.
I didn't create this site with the intention of pontificating from on high. Who am I to do that? I'm no Joe Weiss, Brian Storm or Seth Gitner. They have every right to express their views and we would have every reason take their words to heart. Why? They KNOW this multimedia stuff. I, on the other hand, haven't been doing it very long and am learning new stuff every day. BUT, I feel the need to express myself and warn you that I have nothing but the future of our industry in mind.
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Required reading before I go on:
(Originally printed at
SportsShooter.com: News Item: Posted 2006-11-16
reprinted with permission)
Preserving our Vision
By David Leeson, Dallas Morning News
Six years ago I began work on a philosophy designed to meet something I perceived as a threat to our profession – the demand for rich content, primarily through video.
I knew that still photos would remain forever – the undisputed champion for visual reporting. Actually, it could be the victor of ALL forms of journalistic reports. But, of course, I am prejudiced to the eloquence of the unmoving image that seems to move hearts and minds better than any.
But I also knew that we were about to be overrun by hordes of reality: circulation drops, declining reader demographics, bloggers kicking the ass of traditional media, iPods and podcasting, YouTube, MySpace – the list seems endless. Our best answer at that time seemed to be no answer at all.
As we buried our heads in the sand, our industry continued naively down a road marked with signs that said, "Bridge Out." Warnings of future peril didn't stop our presses, still cranking out newspapers from a gazillion sacrificial trees so we could print news everyone else was reading on the web before it even reached a TV newscast. Undeterred, we sent out our aged missives each day to be tossed over the roof of someone's burdened car onto the curb where another member of a fading demographic waited to smell the newsprint. In other words, surely you've considered that the cultural shifts have pitted us in a battle we can't win using traditional means of journalistic "warfare."
Somewhere along the way we became outdated. The word archaic seems fitting. Most of us still are and consider still images combined with audio as something highly innovative even though folks like Shelley Katz, a former Time magazine photographer, was doing that in 1970 for TV broadcast on WFAA in Dallas. Audio and stills can sometimes be an effective storytelling mechanism. All too often it is not.
Some of the older newspaper photographers remember the battles fought against authoritative newspaper designers. Our mantra was that design should follow the efficacy of the image and not the other way around. We fought type on top of our photos. We fought the cropping of horizontal images into verticals at the whim of "outsiders" who always screamed about page layouts and better design. Our response was to use our cameras to best their argument day in and day out with images that demanded respect.
Today, legions of us scrape together an extra 20 or 30 images that would have never been selected for publication a decade ago. Then, we string them together to create a (shudder) multimedia package. Here's some news for you – audio won't make bad editing any better. But what really disturbs me is a nagging question – has design finally won? It would be just like those slick designers to sneak up on us like that. Sigh.
Some of you have heard rumors and whispers of the work I have been doing in video since 2000. I'm grateful that a fair number of my colleagues apparently respect me enough to not tell me exactly how they feel about my "new" role in photojournalism. So, let me clarify what I've been doing. I've been fighting to preserve your vision. I've been waging war against a myriad of personal agendas while at the same time questioning my own.
I've agonized over my purpose and feel positive that I can declare myself purely motivated by preservation of photojournalism. Still images will remain but video has grown. Sometimes my beloved industry reminds me of a distant aunt visiting a reunion for the first time in 25 years. Last time you saw her you were sitting in a booster seat. Today she appears a tad smaller than before and marvels at how big you've become. Video was a child when most of us first picked up a 35mm. Now, video is all grown up and on its way to becoming a powerful storytelling tool.
The 35mm SLR is slowly being replaced by HDV cameras at places like the Dallas Morning News but the tradition of powerful photojournalism remains through our frame grabs. Why? Because we approach video reporting in the same way we photographed essays. Video isn't just video anymore, just like your photos stopped being "snaps."
If you had the skills in video today – there would be a very long list of opportunities before you. To move forward in life requires a measure of risk. There is no greatness outside of risk. The future of the traditional newspaper is looking pretty risky these days but the health of solid visual reporting is getting stronger every day by those of us who value visual journalism and ethical storytelling above and beyond a 35mm.
If you're still struggling with this then take a look at your average construction worker paid to build a house. Imagine showing up at the job site with only a circular saw. You walk around discussing RPM and torque. You talk about a recent seminar you attended about proper saw techniques. But, then, the boss approaches and asks you to hammer a nail. Unfortunately, you don't have a hammer and your beloved circular saw won't do the job. The moral of the story is that the purpose of the job was to get a house built and not to cut some wood.
The same is true for us. The purpose of the photojournalist is to visually report with honest and ethical stories – and, hopefully, change lives. It's the people that matter – not your photos. Your 35mm has always been nothing more than a tool for getting a job done. You may love it (and I assure you that none of you love it more than I do) but it isn't your purpose in life as a journalist.
This is from me:
Let the stream of consciousness begin:
Okay, can we stop with the talking heads. And it's not so much the talking head, because, I know we sometimes have to do them, but after looking at the recent crop of NPPA multimedia contest entries for last month, I was shocked at how we, yes, me too, have become so lazy with our storytelling. All we seem to be doing is TELLING, not showing!
Great photojournalism is about SHOWING, revealing and not treating your audience like they are stupid, where you have to tell them what's going on.
We are at an exciting crossroads in photojournalism, so why are we just creating bad TV for the web? I have the utmost respect for our TV brethren, but I think the broadcast model is broken FOR THE WEB. So why are we following it? I believe this is our only chance to shake things up. This has nothing to do with talking heads or even video for that matter. Even our ass (audio slide shows) are boring, filled with voice of God narrators or the subjects themselves telling us about the story, instead of us showing the story.
This is the time to take risks, to start the revolution in storytelling. What's the answer? I don't know. But I hope that we as a community can figure it out, without feeling we need to follow a broken path.
But I do know where we should start, with SHOWING not TELLING. Let me point out some of the NPPA contest entries that do just that.
Roger' Care by Will Yurman–overall well done IMO nice balance of showing and telling, but mostly showing.
Washington Post's Ford Funeral–needed talking heads but look how the talking head wasn't on the screen for more than 5 seconds.
Waging Peace–Best example of what I'm talking about can be found in this piece. This could be called a textbook example. After the intro, click on the Working the Horn, there are two videos there, first watch Unofficial goals (this piece is pure SHOWING and doesn't assume a stupid audience. We get it, we can see how happy the kids are to receive the balls and how happy the soldiers are to give them. NOT ONE WORD OF TELLING in this piece.) On the other hand, the second video Cementing relations in Balbala is all TELLING.
My point? Let's grab this opportunity to be risky and take chances. My desperate plea to all of us is to experiment. So what if we fail. Now is the time to fail. We have the power right now to show the industry how we want to tell stories. And we better hurry. So what if we fail, then we can go back to the well traveled path. Don't wait for the "glass office" folks to give you a mandate on how things should be done. Do things the way you think they should be done and SHOW them that people are watching and appreciating the work, because believe me, if you can SHOW people great stories, they keep coming back for more.
Finally, my only direction or advice for the way I'd like to see our industry grow and flourish is to follow the cinematic approach over the broadcast model. When I say cinematic, I don't just mean just video. Well told stories have no boundaries. Who cares if it's video, stills or an HD frame grab? If it touches my heart, mind and soul, like the work of many who came before me– photojournalists, photographers, artists, film-makers, whatever you want to call them–
then who cares what "brush" we use to paint the picture?
Let's shake things up, please.