Could this be the future of photojournalism

Most of us realize that the recent problems with the economy have effected almost every part of our daily lives, and it did not do anything to help the already troubled newspaper business. I have seen for quite some time the failing of newspapers, magazines and print media. From newspapers either cutting back on staff and distribution to closing altogether, it can be real scary. A few years ago while shooting a Division One college basketball game, I was next to a photographer shooting for the schools website. I heard him say to another photographer, “Oh, I missed the focus on this one. No problem, it will still look great on the website.” As photographers, back in the film days we did everything we could to get the perfect shot. Choice of film, camera, lens, filters, lighting and how we would develop the film and print it. Now in the digital age, and the affordability of decent digital SLR cameras, and the ability to “fix it in Photoshop” has ruined photography. True photographers, the ones who came from the old school of film, or studied the art in school, or even starting out with photography as a hobby and have made the right moves learning on their own know that every picture that sees the light of day should start its life out as a perfect capture. I say perfect capture, by meaning your white balance was correct, exposure was spot on, the subject was in focus, and the image was clean (clean meaning anything that was distracting from the subject was not included or avoided). The work digital photographers do today on the computer, after the capture is made, should be minimal. It should reflect the same work we would have done in the darkroom with film. Working with the levels or curves in photoshop is the equivalent of putting filters on an enlarger to help with contrast so the image is not flat (unless it is suppose to be flat), sharpening a digital image is the equivalent of focusing the enlarger, and slightly adjusting the colors could be considered the same as film/paper selection, if not overdone. But, trying to fix a bad image in Photoshop and not really worrying about the quality of the images coming out of camera because it is going to be so small on the website, or thinking that a small newspaper does not need a photographer on staff because “With Photoshop, our reporters can get images that are good enough for our needs” is just wrong. I know of a small newspaper that use to regularly use photos from a couple freelancers that would consistently win awards for the paper, who decided awards were not important and cut so far back on using freelancers and relying on reporters with cameras that the awards for photojournalism ended, and a lot of subscribers canceled their subscriptions because the paper was not enjoyable anymore.

So, it started to look like digital was killing off the photojournalist. Even the Kindle from Amazon was bad for photographers. A grey scale copy of the NY Times is not going to showcase great images. Bet then Apple introduced something new. The iPad. Sure, it looks like a giant iPhone, but it is a step towards saving photojournalism. The iPad gives you something that the Kindle does not. A large color screen and the ability to bring the consumer high quality photos with their stories. This is just the first step though. iPad’s will not save the industry on their own. But it is a step towards a true digital newspaper or news magazine. Time Warner Inc is working on something that I am really excited about as a photographer. Think of it as a Kindle meeting a iPad which would be the grandfather of the digital newspapers from the movie “Minority Report” Here is a video of the Time/Warner offering that should be hitting the market this year.

Sports Illustrated Tablet Demo from Jared Cocken on Vimeo.

This not only opens up a whole new world for digital photojournalists, but also multimedia journalists. Will it save photojournalism and newspapers? No one can answer that, but I hope so, but it will take the public to embrace the technology and take the manufacturers and media outlets to make it affordable in order for it to work. Fingers crossed.

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