What’s the future of photojournalism?

Ever since she was old enough to pick up a camera, 17-year-old Lindsay Boeckl said she has dreamed of photographing for National Geographic. An avid fan of the publication, she set her sights on becoming a photojournalist, with the goal of majoring in photography and minoring in journalism during college.
Now, however, Boeckl worries that the transition from printed papers to online publications could diminish the need for professional photographers.
“(This is) the only thing I can see myself doing for the rest of my life. It’s the only thing I really love,” she said as she sat on a couch, twiddling with her camera buttons. “I don’t feel very good (about the online transition). I think it’ll mean budget cuts. I think it means photos will be the first to go.” Consequently, Boeckl said these shifts may diminish the quality of news.
“When a paper is printed and it’s set in front of you, you see the pictures and the headline and the articles. But when you type it in online, you see headlines only. Headlines get you interested, but pictures suck you in. If a paper only goes to the internet, it won’t be as captivating.”
However, while Boeckl, along with many other aspiring photographers, fear a cutback in the trade, statistics produced by U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics indicate, not a decrease in the career, but an increase.
Through 2016, the Bureau expects employment in the field to grow 10 percent, particularly due to the increase in online publications. The department’s study also showed that the internet may help photographers in freelancing in the future, because of its ease and accessibility.
That being said, the report does indicate a rising trend in citizen journalism—the ability for the average person to take quality pictures and sell them cheaply to news organizations—and how it could contribute to a decreasing need for professionals.
“There are many people who really like photography but just see it as a hobby. Then there’s those who want to make it a career but can’t get into the business,” Boeckl said.
She added that, because of new technology, anyone can point and shoot and camera and get a decent picture. But if news organizations begin using those pictures to save money, those who have made photography their life’s work will be out of a job.
Jim Streisel, however, said he is convinced all these fears are for naught. The adviser of the HiLite newspaper at Carmel High School in Carmel, Indiana and the author of multiple journalism teaching books, Streisel said the internet can only make photography more popular.
“I think pictures are still very popular online. In fact, we can provide more pictures online [than we can in print],” he said. “People like pictures. They like seeing people in them.”
Streisel said his staff writers are adamant about pushing content online, even his photographers.
“My photographers did a ‘photo of the day’ assignment every day,” he said. “The speed is key. Readers are going online [and] journalists need to go where their readers are.”
Streisel said he advises any photographers to become versatile.
“Don’t specialize in just one area,” he said. “Be sure you can multitask. Make sure you can write. A lot of news organizations will send you out [and you’ll do the entire story]. If you’re a good photographer, great. But learn to do other things as well.”
Luckily for Boeckl, she has the leg up Streisel described. As the photo editor of her school paper, she contributes to other, non-photographic aspects of the publication as well as her regular duties.
But while she acknowledged that pictures online are more accessible, she said she would not change her idea that the volume of pictures will decrease.
“I think that only on the days that a paper is printed will there be a need for photos,” Boeckl said. “I encourage people to keep supporting newspapers so they can print, especially with photos.”
Boeckl said she has strong sentimental feelings about printed news and said she hopes others will continue to, too.
“[Printed newspapers] are tradition,” she said. “It’s important to keep that tradition. I don’t want to have to explain to my kids in 15 years what a newspaper was. I want everyone to be able to experience picking up a newspaper and seeing a picture in it.”

No Responses to “What’s the future of photojournalism?” »

No comments yet. But, you can start a conversation of your own on this topic.

What do you think?

Let us know what you think of What’s the future of photojournalism?. Please only provide constructive feedback, and be nice! You can use Gravatar to upload an avatar that will appear next to your comment.