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November 21st, 2013

Media Protest White House Limits on Photographers

Visual press release? President Obama and Vice President Biden met with Israeli and Palestinian negotiators in the Oval Office, July 30, 2013. Media organizations say their photographers were excluded on the grounds that it was a "private meeting." The White House issued this photo by staff photographer Chuck Kennedy afterwards.

“Visual press release”? President Obama and Vice President Biden met with Israeli and Palestinian negotiators in the Oval Office, July 30, 2013. Media organizations say photojournalists were barred because the administration declared it a “private” meeting.  The White House issued this photo by staff photographer Chuck Kennedy afterwards via Flickr.com.

More than three dozen news organizations and journalists’ trade associations have submitted a joint letter of protest to the Obama administration, charging it with denying the news media the right to photograph and videotape President Obama while he is performing his official duties.

“We write to protest the limits on access currently barring photographers who cover the White House,” the letter to White House Press Secretary Jay Carney began. “We hope this letter will serve as the first step in removing these restrictions and, therefore, we also request a meeting with you to discuss this critical issue further.”

To get Carney’s attention, the letter includes an indirect threat of legal action on First Amendment grounds. It says the restrictions on photographers “raise constitutional concerns,” and goes on to cite a 1980 Supreme Court ruling that protects the First Amendment right of the press to access information about the operation of government.

The letter was delivered to Carney today. It was signed by all major TV news networks, wire services, major newspapers, as well as American Society of Media Photographers, National Press Photographers Association, and other organizations.

“As surely as if they were placing a hand over a journalist’s camera lens, officials in this administration are blocking the public from having an independent view of important functions of the Executive Branch of government,” the letter says.

It accuses the administration of excluding photographers by labeling the President’s meetings as “private events.” The letter lists 8 examples of meetings that amounted to “governmental activity of undisputed and wide public interest,” including meetings between the President and the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, Israeli and Palestinian negotiators, and other officials, dignitaries, and activists.

After all but one of the meetings, the White House issued official White House photos of the meetings, according to the letter.   “You are, in effect, replacing independent photojournalism with visual press releases,” news organizations complained to Carney in the protest letter.

The letter says that previous administrations were more transparent, and adds, “[T]he restrictions imposed by your office on photographers undercut the President’s stated desire to continue and broaden that tradition.”

The White House did not immediately respond to requests for comment about the letter.

The Obama administration has been subject to past criticism for its handling of the press.

For instance, the Committee to Protect Journalists says in a recent report, “Despite President Barack Obama¹s repeated promise that his administration would be the most open and transparent in American history, reporters and government transparency advocates said they are disappointed by its performance in improving access to the information they need.

“”This is the most closed, control freak administration I¹ve ever covered,’ said David E. Sanger, veteran chief Washington correspondent of The New York Times.”

The Times was one of the 38 organizations that signed today’s letter of complaint to White House Press Secretary Jay Carney.

November 12th, 2013

Newspaper Job Cuts Hit Photographers Hardest, Pew Research Says

In an article published yesterday by the Pew Research Center, writer Monica Anderson noted that photographers and other visual journalists have borne the brunt of newspaper layoffs from 2000-2012.

Basing her findings on newsroom census data released by the American Society of News Editors, Anderson wrote that “The ranks of photographers, artists and videographers have been trimmed by nearly half (43%)—from 6,171 in 2000 to 3,493 in 2012.” By comparison, the number of full-time writers and reporters fell only 32%, and editor and producer jobs by only 27%.

Related: Chicago Sun-Times Eliminates Photo Staff

Via Poynter

October 11th, 2013

Nick Brandt’s Photographs Go Viral, But Media and the Internet Miss the Point

We recently interviewed Nick Brandt about his new book of fine-art photographs from East Africa, and how his photographic work led to the creation of Big Life, his foundation, which protects elephants and other wildlife from poachers across a two million acre swath of land in the Amboseli ecosystem.

Brandt’s photographs and commitment to conservation speak for themselves. In the past week his work has appeared on websites like Huffington Post, ABC News, Grist, Gizmodo, The Verge and several others.

Yet the majority of the coverage of Brandt’s new work hasn’t focused on the animals killed by poachers; instead writers and editors have keyed on the images in his book showing birds and bats that died in—and were calcified by—a caustic lake in Tanzania. While those images of birds that look strangely alive in death have generated fascination and thousands of comments across various sites, Brandt’s conservation message of has gone largely unremarked both by the media outlets and their audiences.

“Media only wanted to cover the calcifieds, not anything related to conservation.” Brandt told PDN via email. “I tried to persuade some to expand their coverage from just the calcifieds, but in all but two instances failed—the calcifieds were the story du jour. Elephants and lions being annihilated across Africa seemed to be met with a cyber-‘whatever’ on the whole.” (more…)

October 4th, 2013

If We Spend $25K On A Photo Essay, Readers Should Pay to See It, Says Harper’s Publisher

Harper’s publisher John R. MacArthur wrote a letter for the October issue of the magazine in which he took a strong stand against publishing free writing and photography on the web. He tackles the question of how journalism should be funded and distributed today, arguing that publishers, readers and journalists should reject the idea that good journalism should be given away for free in hopes of gaining page views. When he talks about good journalism, he includes good photography. (We’ve noted previously that Harper’s has become a great publisher of photography, winning National Magazine awards and other accolades.)

MacArthur says he has been distressed in recent years as publishers give away the work done by journalists and editors “in the quest for more advertising. Instead of honoring the reader, writer, and editor, this new approach to the publishing business instead insulted them,” MacArthur writes, “both by devaluing their work and by feeding it—with little or no remuneration—to search engines, which in turn feed information to advertising agencies (and, as it turns out, the government.)”

MacArthur says advocates of free content are peddling “nonsense.” “Who needs fact-checkers when we have crowdsourcing to correct the record? Why doesn’t Harper’s give away a particularly good investigative piece… so more people will read it?”

He also has the temerity to suggest that publishers, journalists and editors “have to earn a living.” He singles out a recent photo essay by an anonymous photographer, who risked arrest and imprisonment to report from inside Iran. The assignment cost the magazine $25,000, MacArthur says. “Shouldn’t Anonymous be paid for this courage and skill?” MacArthur asks. “Shouldn’t Harper’s be compensated for sending Anonymous into the field?”

“It is unreasonable to expect that an advertiser would directly sponsor such daring photography,” MacArthur writes. “It is wishful thinking to believe that parasitic Google, now bloated with billions of dollars’ worth of what I consider pirated property, will ever willingly pay Harper’s, or Anonymous, anything at all for the right to distribute Anonymous’s pictures…”

MacArthur will hopefully forgive us for quoting him at length on our blog, which is not behind a paywall. Those who want to read the rest of his statement, and see Michael Christopher Brown‘s fantastic photographs from Libya, or Misty Keasler‘s touching images accompanying a report about a controversial Montana orphanage for Russian children, will have to pick up the magazine on the newsstand, or subscribe for $20, about twice what I will probably spend on lunch today.

September 12th, 2013

Are Women Photographers Being Discriminated Against in the Editorial Market?

A week ago editorial photographer and artist Daniel Shea published a post on his Tumblr, titled “On Sexism in Editorial Photography,” hoping it would “initiate a broader conversation.” Shea began the post with the disclaimer that he is “a white, cis male photographer” who didn’t claim to speak for anyone but himself, before pointing out that, to him, “It would seem that the biggest magazines with the most hiring power hire mostly male photographers.”

The post has generated nearly 550 likes and reblogs on Tumblr, as well as a number of comments.

Without naming names, Shea cites informal conversations with photo editors who offered some interesting explanations as to why a gender imbalance might exist. Some editors said they didn’t know women photographers whose esthetic fit with their magazines. “To further complicate this issue,” Shea continues, “one editor mentioned that most media, art and literature is made to fit a masculine perspective, and perhaps that’s why men are more ‘apt’ at photographing that content.”

Shea notes also that most photo editors are women; one editor floated the idea that women are “natural nurturers” of men. Shea says he’s “skeptical” of that explanation. Instead, he suggests other reasons. One is that sexism in editorial photography is a microcosm. “Larger systems of oppression, like sexism and misogyny, replicate themselves very effectively on smaller scales,” Shea wrote. (more…)

September 5th, 2013

Facebook Makes Alarming Changes to Terms, ASMP Breaks Down the Changes

Facebook has altered their terms of service to make it possible for companies that pay the social media network to utilize Facebook users’ content and likeness without compensation or permission. The changes are sure to alienate Facebook’s users in the creative community, who make a living from licensing their work and content.

Among the changes is this gem:

“You give us permission to use your name, and profile picture, content, and information in connection with commercial, sponsored, or related that content (such as a brand you like) served or enhanced by us. This means, for example, that you permit a business or other entity to pay us to display your name and/or profile picture with your content or information, without any compensation to you. If you have selected a specific audience for your content or information, we will respect your choice when we use it.”

ASMP created a handy Q&A about the new terms of use that helps break down the changes and what they mean for photographers.

This comes on the heels of the ASMP-led criticism of Instagram that was recently issued.

We have to wonder, at what point will a social network take the step to actually compensate the users that make it tick and protect them from unauthorized exploitation and surveillance? Seems to us like a network that figured out how to do that would find a community very quickly.

Related: Photography Trade Organizations Take Aim at Instagram Terms
AFP, Washington Post Violated Daniel Morel’s Copyrights, Judge Rules
Morel Case Highlights Copyright Risks of Social Networks

August 26th, 2013

Reuters Phasing Out Use of Freelance Sports Photographers in North America

Reuters is phasing out its use of contract freelance sports photographers in North America and will instead rely on USA Today Sports Images, a wire service, for sideline coverage of major professional sports and some college games. “I can confirm that we are expanding our ongoing relationship with USA Today Sports and will be adding a subset of their North American Sports photography to our file,” a Reuters spokesperson told PDN.

NPPA first reported this change at Reuters on Friday. The NPPA report quotes an unnamed source at Sports Illustrated and a freelance photographer in Toronto, Jon Blacker. Blacker told NPPA that he spoke with Peter Jones, the North American Sports Photo Editor at Thomson Reuters on Friday morning, as he was making calls to inform their freelance sports photographers of the change. “He said it was purely a business decision, and that their business plan calls for using the money that Reuters saves on covering sports to re-invest in photo covering more news,” Blacker said.

USATSI is owned by Gannett, which purchased the company in August 2011.

(via NPPA)

August 22nd, 2013

Photography Trade Organizations Take Aim at Instagram Terms

Several professional photography trade organizations have banded together to study Instagram’s Terms of Service, and today the American Society of Media Photographers issued the following press release:

Photographic Community, Led by The American Society of Media Photographers, Deems Instagram Terms Too Far-Reaching

PHILADELPHIA, Aug. 22, 2013 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — The American Society of Media Photographers (ASMP), joined by National Press Photographers Association (NPPA), The Digital Media Licensing Association (PACA), American Photographic Artists (APA), This Week in Photography (TWiP), Professional Photographers of America (PPA), Coordination of European Picture Agencies Stock, Press and Heritage (CEPIC), Graphic Artists Guild (GAG) and American Society of Picture Professionals (ASPP), has mounted a campaign to address the far-reaching Terms of Use of the image sharing service Instagram. Since 2010, more than 16 billion images and movies have been uploaded to Instagram. The organizations believe that few of the users who share images on the site understand the rights they are giving away. ASMP has issued “The Instagram Papers,” information in the form of essays and analysis about the Terms of Use in which the key issue is that users should have the ‘right to terminate’ their agreement with Instagram, allowing them to remove permissions for the use of their identities and content at any time.

Specifically, the Terms of Use give Instagram perpetual use of photos and video as well as the nearly unlimited right to license the images to any and all third parties. And, after granting this broad license to Instagram, users also relinquish the right to terminate the agreement. Once uploaded, they cannot remove their work and their identity from Instagram. Additionally, in the event of litigation regarding a photo or video, it is the account holder who is responsible for attorney and other fees, not Instagram.

Moreover, while Instagram’s agreement includes the right to sublicense images, it specifically excludes the need to ever pay creators, regardless of the way the company may use or sell their work. The photographic community believes strongly that fair compensation for the creators of work is a vital component of a fair agreement.

According to ASMP Executive Director Eugene Mopsik, “While clearly benefiting Instagram, the rights of imaging professionals and general users stand to be infringed upon in an unprecedented way. We are concerned that not only have Instagram’s Terms of Use gone beyond acceptable standards, but also that other social media providers may use these onerous terms as a template for their own agreements.”

Peter Krogh, ASMP’s Digital Standards & Practices Chair, said, “As online services become larger repositories of intellectual property, power has shifted away from the user and toward the company provider. Unless changes are made by Instagram, we believe the terms will have a profound and negative impact on imaging professionals, publishers and general users.”

In the coming weeks and months ASMP, along with the other listed organizations, will continue to reach out to gain support in addressing these egregious terms before they become the industry standard.

Related: Bowing to Pressure from Users, Instagram Retracts New Terms of Use
Now That We Know Instagram Isn’t a Charity, What Would You Be Willing to Pay?

August 21st, 2013

From Twitter to TIME: An Egyptian Photojournalist Finds His Voice Amid Violence

A difficult reality of photojournalism is that photographers often define their careers by covering conflict. Egyptian photojournalist Mosa’ab Elshamy is the latest example. Elshamy began photographing as a citizen journalist during the Arab Spring protests in Egypt in 2011, when he documented demonstrations against then-President Hosni Mubarak in Cairo’s Tahrir Square. Two and a half-years later, he’s made the transition from being an amateur to being a photojournalist who is watched by top photo editors and a nearly 40,000-strong Twitter following.

Elshamy’s work in Egypt, and from Gaza during the 2012 war there, has been published by the likes of The Economist and Harper’s among others, and he’s won awards in the Egypt International Photography Contest and Arab Union of Photographers competition. Yet during the last few weeks his photos of Egypt’s descent into violence, particularly his images of the clearing of a pro-Morsi sit-in at Rabaa at the end of July, have earned him the cover of The New York Times and bylines for TIME International and AlJazeera English, among other publications.

Patrick Witty, international picture editor of TIME, says he first heard about Elshamy’s work on Twitter at the end of July. “After the massacre at Rabaa Square on July 27, someone I follow tweeted about a picture he made,” Witty told PDN in an email. “I tracked it back to his Flickr account and reached out to him.” (more…)

August 14th, 2013

Newsweek: An Autopsy (And an Ex-Photo Editor’s Lament)

Newsweek-Autopsy-CoverA new exhibition co-curated by Marion Durand, a Newsweek photo editor and James Wellford, former senior photo editor who left Newsweek last year, celebrates some of the magazine’s achievements in visual storytelling, and also features images that were never published.  On display through September at Cortona on the Move, the photo festival in Tuscany, Italy, “Newsweek: An Autopsy” mixes magazine covers, framed prints and layouts from both the US and international editions of Newsweek from the past 12 years, and offers a window into editorial decision making. In a very candid interview, published in www.emahomagazine.com, Wellford talks about the exhibition and the “painful experience” of being unable to rally interest in serious photo essays. He says he was frustrated by the lack of support even before Newsweek became what he calls a “pamphlet” that covered more personality journalism than hard news. “There’s a lot of compromise,” he says.

Wellford says the problem was partly due to the downturn in print advertising, and Newsweek’s lack of subscription revenue, which meant  “the ability of the magazine to produce pages…and support writers and photographers went down the drain.” But he also talks about much earlier incidents when, according to Wellford, Newsweek failed to support photographers in the field.

In 1994, when Wellford was freelancing for the magazine, for example, he says the magazine supported several photographers who were covering the genocide in Rwanda, including Gilles Peress. “But the fact that you support it doesn’t mean that the magazine is going to run it, because remember the appetite for showing harshness constantly compromises the conversation in the newsroom.” He notes that at certain moments of history-making news, “It’s embarrassing what they were putting on the covers.”

He says, “The biggest regret was not being able to support people in perilous situations.” When photographer Laurent Van der Stockt, who was then a contract photographer with Newsweek, traveled on his own to Fallujah, Iraq, the site of two bloody battles of the Iraq war, Wellford wanted to “make sure he was secure.” However, he says, “someone came up to me at Newsweek” and asked first if Van der Stockt was there on an assignment from Newsweek, and was then “relieved” to learn he wasn’t – so Newsweek didn’t act to ensure his safety. When Teru Kuwayama, working in Pakistan on assignment for the magazine, was injured in a car accident in which the driver was killed instantly, Wellford says only people he knew in Pakistan and “friends of mine at The New York Times and CNN…kept an eye on him.” Wellford still doesn’t know what money Newsweek gave to the driver’s family. “I have never forgiven them for that,” he says.

Wellford connects the lack of concern for the welfare of magazine contributors to a lack of regard for journalism in general. “It was about morality and ethics,” he says.

“That to me has been lost, narcissism and the self seemed to take over. Of course you can’t generalize, but there seems to be no cumulative sense of making statements that in time, historically, will reflect on genuine concern for the world.”

The interview on emahomagazine.com includes a slide show of images by Alex Majoli, Paolo Pellegrin, Charles Omanney and other photographers in the show, as well as Wellford’s explanation of how he chooses to edit and assign photojournalists.

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