Wednesday, June 05, 2013

One-Man Band 

A struggling Chicago newspaper has fired all of its photographers and is teaching its reporters to shoot photos with iPhones.  It is the return of the one-man band, the journalist who does everything for better and worse.  Predictably, the media are unhappy that more work has been thrust on them and the out-of-work photographers are threatening to sue.  In PR, there are some of us who shrug and ask what else is new.  Many practitioners have had to master more than one discipline as a condition for staying employed.  I can think of one individual who is a jack of all trades -- a photographer, a writer, a bartender, a tour guide and more.  He does whatever his company asks of him and he accomplishes each task well.  The newspaper business was never quite like that.  Because there were more technical aspects to film-based photos and cameras were cumbersome -- the old Speed Graphics --  photographers were separate from reporters.  With modern equipment, the technical problems have gone away and anyone from a five-year-old and above can snap a picture.  It might not be the best-composed shot from the right angle with the right visual story telling, but it is an image editors can work with.  There is a deficit to one-man bands.  Time for reporting is taken away by time spent shooting photos.  Journalists will have to work around that, but from a PR practitioner to a reporter, welcome to the club.

When I retired from publishing a small newspaper, I was doing the jobs of seven people from the era when my career started (late 1960s). I remember a pool interview with Al Gore in late 1999. When he entered the room, he saw six of us with pads, tape recorders and cameras. He cracked up and made a disarming comment about small-town reporters taking their own photos. He thought it was funny -- but shared the laugh with us. Now, I guess we were ahead of our time. Welcome to your new job, Chicago!

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