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Portions of this column were originally written for the July-August 2013 edition of News Photographer Magazine.

Mark Loundy is a media producer and consultant based in San Jose, California. Full bio.

The opinions in this article are those of the author alone and do not necessarily represent the official views of the National Press Photographers Association.

July-August 2013, Volume 121
By Mark Loundy

"Then you better start swimmin'
Or you'll sink like a stone"

— Bob Dylan, The Times They Are A-Changin'

Changin' Times

Last month I talked about how the elimination of the Chicago Sun-Times photo department was just an indicator for the direction of the entire news industry. All journalists will be expected to use a broader set of skills. I talked about this in detail in the Jan-Feb 2012 Common Cents.

Although successful companies will continue to value high-level photographic skills, the hard delineations of current staffs will dissolve. Modern staffers will have a different professional approach than has been traditional in newsrooms. People who can "do it all" will be the norm.

But staffers won't be identical components that can be plugged equally into any assignment. Just as journalists in traditional newsrooms have varying talent and knowledge levels and editors assign stories and projects based on who they think will do the best job on a particular project, some journalists will have stronger visual skills and some will be better at long-form writing. Hiring and managing the right mix of people is a core skill for a senior editor.

Job listings increasingly use the phrase, "digital journalist" and fewer mention "reporter" or "photographer." Professional success and survival now require journalists who can reach for the best tool to fulfill an assignment. They must have the ability to create complete packages independently and continually interact with the community via social media.

Skilled visual journalists need to be in the field only on the most visually appropriate stories. The rest of the time, they should be curating, editing, producing visual content and engaging with the community. Newsrooms will "outsource" some of what they've traditionally done. Spot news, for example, is a terrible return on investment, except for major disasters. The general public nearly always beats the photojournalist to the scene. Community members will cover ribbon cutters and routine events. Managers need to be more institutionally self-aware of their staff's most valuable skills and manage in that direction.

The times they are a changing and it is a fact that not everybody is going to want to change with them.

The Good
Bullet CrowdMedia, for announcing that they intend to modify their currently onerous Terms of Service that currently include copyright transfer.

The Bad
Bullet This one is really a semi-bad. Although Sport Diver magazine asks for perpetual rights and cross-publication rights for all Bonnier publications, it has at least made some effort to limit those rights to the context of the original article.

The Ugly
Bullet Texas A&M University for seeking credit-only images for a book that is funded by the National Science Foundation Why are they not spending any of the grant money on photography?

Please let me know of any particularly good, bad or ugly dealings that you have had with clients recently. I will use the client's name, but I won't use your name if you don't want me to. Anonymous submissions will not be considered. Please include contact information for yourself and for the client.

  • If you want to shoot for USA Today Sports Images and you don't already use Photo Mechanic, you're now going to have to shell out. USATSI recently sent a notice out to all of its contributors that they are required to use specific XMP files in their workflow that are compatible only with Photo Mechanic.
    Good news, though. Camera Bits, the publishers of PM have offered to license PM to USATSI contributors for a discounted rate.
  • When Australian writer Catherine Deveny got an offer from the maker of Equal artificial sweetener to work for them for credit only, she, politely, went off on them. "How incredibly unprofessional to develop an advertising budget where you do not pay for the content," she wrote. "And how rude to ask people to work for nothing."
    Amazingly, Equal responded, respectfully and with clear understanding of the message that they were sending to an important portion of their market. Kudos to Equal for listening.