The past two decades were rough times for publishers. Many traditional media outlets have gone the way of the dinosaur with newsrooms being particularly hard hit.
The future of journalism looked pretty bad. In fact, it wasn’t until recently that many old-line publications began making money again. Naturally, the success or failure of many is linked to a transition to “online” from print, but that’s only part of the story. Gutting the staff that produced high-quality journalism in the past was also a huge component of this turnaround strategy.
One job that was among the first to go were the photojournalists and well-paid freelance photographers. Now big names are looking wherever they can for the cheapest product available, some even turning to online social media outlets for sources.
Tara Mortensen and Peter Gade looked into just this issue with their research “Does Photojournalism Matter? News Image Content and Presentation in the Middletown (NY) Times Herald-Record Before and After Layoffs of the Photojournalism Staff.”
Shockingly, they found that getting rid of professional photographers leads to poorer quality photos and media in publications. The researchers graded the photos taken by “non-professionals” and compared those with the grades photos by professionals received. Tellingly, photos by non-professionals scored very poorly in the “intimacy” ranking, a measure of “private connection with the viewer” – whatever that means.
PetaPixel quotes the research, writing: “Following the layoff, the paper published fewer images, and presented less prominently…Professional images captured significantly more elements of photojournalism than non-professionals, including emotion, action, conflict, and graphic appeal. Professional images were presented larger and more prominently. …Results of this case study provide evidence that—despite clear differences in image content—photojournalists are struggling to assert their professional legitimacy in the digital age.”
What do you think? Obvious conclusion or a call for bringing back professional photojournalists? Or both? Let us know in the comments.