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A Credible and Funded Photojournalism

Can we afford to not know what is going on in the world? Who is going to tell us? If photojournalists cannot be paid (the press is dying all too rapidly) then who will explore the margins? Citizen journalists? To some extent, but I hardly think that citizen journalists can do everything. Photographing in the midst of events is one thing; exploring major and complex stories over time is a much different task.

If photographs are no longer credible due to misuse, overuse and manipulation, then even if we have such photographs, who will believe them? Or do we not want to know? (”Reality” television seems to be a way to substitute voyeurism and a juvenile notoriety for the more compelling and intractable forms of reality that involve the pain of others, and our own.)

If photography, and in particular photojournalism, is to have a major role in the future as a societal witness, then we must find a way to restore some of its imperfect credibility and also to create funds for photojournalists to be able to work seriously. Isn’t it about time that we set up guidelines for non-fictional and fictional photography, so as to distinguish the two (as we do for words and films)? Shouldn’t we be working to reduce generic and shocking imagery while promoting nuance and complexity?

Isn’t it also about time that a not-for-profit, funded in part by readers, were to begin to commission photojournalists on a regular basis? Readers might select from a menu of possible stories and from a list of possible photographers. This not-for-profit then could publish the results, as could other remaining publications throughout the world (thus providing more funds). Would this not be another salient and prominent form of citizen journalism - a journalism funded by citizens?

I would suggest that those who care about photojournalism focus on these two tasks before so much credibility is lost that there is little that can be done and before photojournalism so completely disappears from our purview that it seems only a relic of the twentieth century. Or is there another choice?

2 Comments

  1. Pete Brook wrote:

    Fred, the model you suggested for funding photojournalism already exists. It is called Spot.Us (www.spot.us) It deals primarily with written journalism. It is not closed to photojournalism (I asked the founder Dave Cohn many months ago) it is just that no photojournalist has taken advantage of the platform to request citizen funding.

    Personally, I think a crowd-funded photojournalism-specific organisation is well worth exploring.

    Dave could tell you exactly how to go about this type of venture as he has done it from the ground up on a $340,000 Knight Foundation grant.

    Saturday, November 7, 2009 at 9:34 pm | Permalink
  2. Michael Fox wrote:

    This is not a new theme. Quite recently, there has been heated discussion on this topic at Dirck Halstead’s site, http://digitaljournalist.org/issue0909/how-to-start-to-save-photojournalism.html. There are many models being discussed, and media companies seem to be trying to form a pay-wall coalition which, let’s face it, is more likely to help make-up for lost ad revenue, than be invested in good photojournalism.

    I wish there was a single, central host for all these debates, so that we may, collectively, drive some direction.

    Sunday, November 8, 2009 at 3:53 pm | Permalink

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