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News-Herald photographers share what they're capturing and give the stories behind the photos.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Photojournalism in the new news ecology by Michael Allen Blair

There’s been a lot written this past week regarding Advance Publications’ decision to scale back to publishing several of their daily newspapers to three days a week. As you can imagine, this is an unsettling topic among journalists who make their living documenting the daily news.

As a 20-year staff photographer/multimedia journalist, I can more than relate to many of the fears my fellow journalists harbor in an ever-changing industry.
In many ways, I feel like the industry has reached a major crossroads where the decisions that are made now will ultimately result in the success or failure of local newspapers as we know them. One of those decisions will involve the direction of news photography and videography and the work flow issues associated there in.

As consumers of local news turn increasingly toward the Internet for information, local newspaper organizations are faced with the challenge of producing visual content on par with local television news websites and large metro dailies.
Although still photography is still undoubtedly a valuable tool, the web offers the ability to tell stories visually with much greater sophistication than traditional photo pages or slideshows.

As consumers’ web use increases, so too will the demand for sophisticated visual story telling. Moving pictures will become the norm, whether in the form of audio slideshows or short timely videos. The pace at which the majority of people now consume news and information is not conducive to spending significant amounts of time with single still photos on a web page. In many ways it’s a chicken and egg workflow dilemma for photographers.

 In keeping with the our corporate digital first mindset, I believe multimedia journalists need to think video first and still photography second. Sporting events maybe the exception to this when the desire to freeze motion is paramount. With the increasing capabilities of HDSLR  cameras, frame grabs and greater Internet band width, still photography will play an increasingly smaller role in the web world. I envision a day where the majority of images on a web page will be clickable and stream a corresponding video.

While some stories may be suitable for a one-man band approach, others merit a thoughtful team approach. Visual and audio problem solving is typically second nature for today’s photojournalist. The increasing demand for social media and real time, live news coverage has created an opportunity for photojournalists and reporters alike.

It’s through well equipped teamwork that local newspaper organizations will provide the sophisticated visual story telling that will be the rule not the exception in the new news ecology.  


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