Tag Archives: newspaper

Discrimination In Journalism

Seeking Diversity In The Media Industry

Press Card Mosaic

It’s a very sad truth that sexism and racism is rife in the media. As a British photojournalist born in Iran and off Armenian descendants, I have lived in the UK since the age of eight. It’s very much my home and I’m extremely proud to be British and to contribute to society through my work, both professionally and in various volunteer basis, as well as numerous charitable contributions.

Through various publications, competitions and awards over the years, I have proven my ability as a photojournalist, yet sadly have never managed to make it past being a casual freelance photographer (meaning being commissioned daily) for the newspapers and agencies. I have several talented colleagues who are of various ethnic backgrounds who have the same struggles. The same discrimination is shown towards white, English female colleagues when contracts and big projects are filled. It is indeed rare to see someone of ethnicity or female photographers in good contract positions, the recipient of the top commissions or in possession of staff jobs (even when these were more abundant).

It truly is a shame that one’s ability and skill is often overseen, in place of one’s ethnicity or sex. After all, the reader or viewer sees the work, not the author. Its quite bizarre that over the last year, I decided to grow a long beard. Instead of this being seen as a trendy or hipster type thing, because of my slight tanned complexion, I could see a lot of people were judging me as some sort of religious extremist. Since shaving it off a couple of months ago, the reaction of the same people when seeing me is the polar opposite. Its quite sad really. Ignorance is most often not bliss.

Picture editors, editors, publishers and media owners need to look at the quality of work and ability of the photojournalist, not their ethnicity, sex, cultural background or religion. I’m definitely not one to condone positive discrimination either; quotas shouldn’t be filled based purely on one’s ethnicity or sex. I just think that the best person for the job should always get the job regardless of the colour of their skin or their sex.

The NY Times has this excellent article, which is well worth a read: Seeking Action — Not Just Talk — About Diversity in Photojournalism. Even more importantly, at the end of the article is a link to a survey for working photojournalists. Please put aside five minutes and fill in this Reclaim survey. Hopefully it’ll benefit the industry and our readers too.

Sarah Lee: Photographs

Guardian Photographer Sarah Lee’s Exhibition

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A visitor at the photography exhibition by Sarah Lee of The Guardian. Kings Place, 90 York Way, London, N1. August 17, 2016. Photo: Edmond Terakopian

I attended the opening of Sarah Lee‘s wonderful photography exhibition last night at The Guardian. It’s a wonderful collection of some of the very best in newspaper portraiture and feature photography and I highly recommend a visit.

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A portrait of Sarah Lee of The Guardian at her exhibition’s private view. Kings Place, 90 York Way, London, N1. August 17, 2016. Photo: Edmond Terakopian

Sarah adds, “I have Fiona Shields and Luke Dodd to thank for getting the idea off the ground, and David McCoy has printed it beautifully. They’ve done such a good job it would be lovely if you happen to be free and felt like popping along.”

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L-R The Guardian’s picture editor Fiona Shields and photographer Sarah Lee. Photography exhibition by Sarah Lee of The Guardian. Kings Place, 90 York Way, London, N1. August 17, 2016. Photo: Edmond Terakopian

The exhibition is on at The Guardian‘s entrance, Kings Place, 90 York Way, London N1. It’s open during office hours and on until the first week of September, so hurry to catch it!

A Note To Editors, Publishers And Newspaper Owners

How To Succeed In The Newspaper Industry

It’s alarming to see in recent years the closure of photographic departments (e.g. the Chicago Sun Times and countless weekly local papers) and the way great photography is cut from once brilliant newspapers. If someone with no understanding of newspapers, or business generally, wants to cut costs and increase profitability, the simple and easy thing to do is get rid of what costs the most; often this is the photographic department. The reasons are simple; camera gear and computer gear, including software, is expensive and sending photographers all over the country and the world accumulates in cost. After all, unlike journalists who can work many thousands of miles from a story, rewriting press releases or doing interviews over the phone, the photographer has to be there, in person. This is one of the aspects which makes photography the truest form of journalism; you can’t photograph what you can’t witnessA photograph is the only unaltered truth from a story.

State visit to Britain by US President Barack Obama.  Karl Court & Andrew Parsons in the press area. Downing Street, London. May 25, 2011. Photo: Edmond Terakopian

State visit to Britain by US President Barack Obama. Carl Court & Andrew Parsons in the press area. Downing Street, London. May 25, 2011. Photo: Edmond Terakopian

So, easy, let’s cut out or cut down the photography department and use user generated content; a big mistake; putting aside that often these are aesthetically weak and do not communicate the story, the source of the imagery is also unknown and therefore cannot be trusted. A good and unfortunate example is the aftermath of the Boston Marathon bombing where the Police were chasing the wrong suspects as they were led astray by “citizen journalists”. The other option is of course to use the wire services; excellent agencies like AP are journalistically, ethically and morally sound, often producing great content. Only problem is, this content’s available to all your competitors, blogs (both proper or run by individuals as a glorified hobby) and available for free on search engines.

There is also the option of giving iPhones to the reporters; after all, anybody can take a picture, right? Wrong! Many more people write than take photographs, so by this frankly idiotic reasoning, newspapers should certainly get rid of all writers as well.

Anyone can take a picture; just as anyone can write a word, sing a song, write a poem, paint a painting, run, jump, kick a ball, make a paper aeroplane; it doesn’t mean that they can do these things well, let alone properly and at a high level. It certainly doesn’t make these people photographers, journalists, singers, poets, artists, athletes, professional footballers or aeronautical designers and engineers. When it comes to things journalistic, a level of trust is needed as it’s important to get the facts right, be they in words or in pictures. Relying on pictures from bystanders (even if the term Citizen Journalist has come about, it doesn’t mean bystanders have the first idea about journalistic practice, value or ethics) and publishing these is a tragic mistake for all the various reasons outlined.

State visit to Britain by US President Barack Obama.  Photographers setting up remote cameras in order to get a second angle to their shooting positions. Downing Street, London. May 25, 2011. Photo: Edmond Terakopian

State visit to Britain by US President Barack Obama. Photographers setting up remote cameras in order to get a second angle to their shooting positions. Downing Street, London. May 25, 2011. Photo: Edmond Terakopian

At this point, you’ve ruined the quality of your newspaper and at best made it generic and at worst made it awful. Content is king. At this point, any businessman will tell you that you never mess with the essence of your product; you product is what keeps the company afloat. Give the consumer a reason not buy your product and they will stop buying. Loads of options there on the free market. Result? Your sales go down, advertisers at first barter for cheaper rates and then stop advertising. Your newspaper fails and closes. Whoops.

Look at the Daily Mail website and how astonishingly popular it is; ask yourselves why? Is it because many millions like to read the paper’s occasional almost racist stance on things or is it because the paper’s web presence has embraced photography and publishes the best photography available, daily, and thus pushes up it’s visitor numbers and has elevated the website to being one of the most popular in the world, often overtaking the NY Times? Clearly, it’s not the writing, it’s the power of photography.

So, “How To Succeed”. Dear editor, publisher or newspaper owner, people are moved by great photography. It catches their eye on the news stand and online and attracts them to your paper and the story. People never remember a great article they read months ago or a great piece of video footage from years ago. They will however remember pictures they saw decades ago. This is how a human being’s mind works and as this is your target audience, you should pay attention to the power of great photography and the effect it has. Just because you see great iPhone pictures produced by professional photographers, it doesn’t mean giving your reporters an iPhone is going to bring similar results. Just as a keyboard doesn’t make people award winning writers and a pot doesn’t make everyone a Michelin Star chef, a camera (be it a Leica, Canon, Olympus or an iPhone) doesn’t make everyone a photographer.

BRITAIN MANDELA 90TH BIRTHDAY CONCERT

In it’s day, The Independent was a great paper. It ran powerful, intelligent photography. They saved costs, got rid of the country’s best photographers. Now look at what the paper’s turned into; such a shame, such a waste. Realise that great photography and writing go hand in hand; marry this with great design and you have a winning formula.

This philosophy applies to local weekly, regional, evening, and national papers. Respect your readership and give them good material and they will stay true to you.

Now, go and hire some great photographers, produce a great newspaper, win awards, be proud, sell loads of copies, get many hits on your website, sell adverts and make your many, many millions.

Addendum:

As if proof were needed: The Chicago Sun-Times has now hired back four of the photographers it fired. Good to see that eventually they came to their senses (probably spurred on by a loss in advertising revenue) and realised what a vital role quality and journalistically accurate photography plays in a newspaper. More HERE

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.