What’s Wrong With The Newspaper Industry

Press Photography & The Papers

A press card and a selection of media accreditation from over the years. June 12, 2012. Photo: Edmond Terakopian

The problems with the industry (normally and not just during this recession) are multiple; some do lay with the accountants who run most things (being qualified with arithmetic and spread sheet skills, or the understanding of formulas, in my mind does not give someone aesthetic understanding or the ability to have a news sense), weak picture editors, bad editors, visually less capable mass audience and the pandering of the papers to the weakest common denominator as opposed to trying to visually educate the readership a little. Not too long ago we had newspapers that ran the most amazing photography; informative, accurate, ethical, creative and mind blowingly powerful – and no, I’m not just talking about the broadsheets (as they were then) but a few tabloid papers too.

Another huge issue is the switch to digital and the ‘everyone’s a photographer’ syndrome; backed by accountants who see a picture as something that has four sides to it but have no ability to comprehend it’s content, importance or power. This also lead to the birth of the mass paparazzi – the most money paid for photography is for this type of content and the publications who print this material, sell the most, so have the biggest budgets.

The ‘new’ technology, called the internet also has had a detrimental effect to the traditional model of newspapers. A day late, even with great analysis and checked, journalistically correct information, is sometimes too late for readers. I saw new in quotes as anyone looking at most newspaper websites would thing the internet came to being a couple of months ago. It’s been with us long enough, yet few papers have learnt to design good, usable websites that harness the power of the web and deliver amazing content. The business model has to change too; good content needs to be paid for properly. Content is king; no good content means lower visitor hits, equalling less advertising revenue. It’s not rocket science! It is however beyond doubt the future (including mobile devices using the internet for delivery of content).

Let’s not forget though, as photographers we have our share of the blame. Some of this ignorance comes from the educational sector who are happy to teach Susan Sontag and theory, but when it comes to actual skills needed by photographers to survive, like knowing one’s rights and the law of copyright, they teach nothing. The rest of the blame is purely with us for not finding out.

We are signing away our copyright and future rights to our work, even though the law states that it’s ours. This is shortsighted and every time such a contract is signed, another nail is hammered into our collective coffin. There is no going back from this. Sooner than you know, we will retire and have no picture library of our own to fall back on; so, no books, no print sales and no exhibitions. My thoughts are that the bigger picture needs to be looked at; after all, this is a career and so, is long term.

We are killing our own industry too.

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