Saturday, July 18, 2009

J-Schools & B-Schools

Richard Sine, who writes for free (as do all HuffPo writers) over at the Huffington Post, wraps up his article "Close the J-Schools" (7/15/09) with the following sentiment:

"It dawned on me that the new business models that may save journalism were much more likely to come from the business school than the journalism school. At times I felt like closing down the J-school and sending most of those kids straight across campus, to the shiny new B-school."
While Mr. Sine is correct about the business models, closing down the journalism schools is a bad idea.
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The two core years of journalism classes instill in future journalists in ways few others can, the critical value of integrity, truth, and how to translate that to the written word. History of failed reporters' past, from plagiarism to just plain making stories up, are dissected. How to write a compelling story by deconstructing well written ones, and so on. The same holds true for photography schools, from Western Kentucky to Missouri, Syracuse, to RIT, to Brooks. All teach photography, and some specialize in photojournalism. Sine defends his suggestion of limiting enrollment or closing schools by saying "If you screw up, nobody dies, and nothing collapses." While true in a direct manner, it is indirectly not true. People take action all the time based upon reports in the press. When a city mayor is being criticized in the press for delays on a local construction project, he in turn could put undue pressure on those in charge who would have to take short cuts which could cause a collapse. Peoples' lives are changed over press reports, jobs lost (fairly or unfairly), and so on. Such is the power of the press. When a reporter or photographer picks up the tools of their trade and wields them under the constitutionally protected "free press" First Amendment, those people should have skills and training to wield that power.

Reporters and photographers as they are thrown into the freelance world, are going to have no choice but to follow common business practices and adhere to standards as simple as "income must exceed expense" or they will not be in journalism very long. The businesses that employ staffers are collapsing all around the country, because those at the top have no idea how to properly monetize their content in the "it should all be free online" mentality. As such, some remedial business school learning for the executives is in order, I'd think.

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Thursday, July 16, 2009

Interfering With A Free Press

Thursday July 2nd, as the MTV production "Real World" arrived officially in Washington DC, accredited members of the news media, on public property, documented their arrival, including an interview done by a crew from the local CBS affiliate.

Here is the footage from the CBS crew, which illustrates just how inappropriate the actions of the MTV crew were:

Now, the MTV cameraman has responded. What did he say?

(Continued after the Jump)

In short - "mea culpa".

MetroMix first reported the apology of videographer Ryan Romkema. Here is his public apology:

Dear Lindsey Mastis,

I would like to extend an apology for my conduct on July 2. My actions on that day were ill advised and an overreaction to the pressures of the moment. Many people were and are excited for "The Real World DC" and the opportunities that lay ahead. A camera instruction was given to document the situation and it was too much. The nation's capital has given a warm welcome to "The Real World DC" and it is our desire to present this great city in the best light possible. I regret my actions that day and hope you will accept this apology. ~Ryan Romkema

Take very careful note in the video of how professional Lindsey was throughout. Here, on a public sidewalk, the Real World photographer thought he could harass and bully another reporter into stopping/leaving. Not cool.

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Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Re-Mixing Content

One of the most effective infomercials was the sham-wow sales pitch, with the "are ya following me camera guy" line. Then, the pitchman goes up in flames with press about an incident where the police get involved. So much for his career, right?

Enter the slap-chop product and a new infomercial (here). No doubt, they got this guy for a song, because he was trying to revive his career, and with slap chop the slap chop remix, he has done just that. So the question is - why are we discussing this on Photo Business News?

What originally happened was the copyrighted "slap chop" commercial was re-mixed. From everything I can find, it was remixed without the copyright owners' permission. However, in this case, the re-mix became so popular, the the copyright owner of the commercial decided to make it an official commercial and use it to sell the product (as reported here). You really can't appreciate the talent that went into the remix, until you see the original content he had to work with, (here). Now, here is the mesmerizing result:

More and more, photographers are rightfully standing up for the unauthorized use of their images. However, as copyright evolves, it may be that people re-mix your photography without your permission, and then you like the result even more. Who then owns that copyright? Who then profits from that derivative work?

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Monday, July 13, 2009

Burning Bridges

So, how often have you heard the phrase "don't burn bridges, you never know...." usually followed by some reason for not burning that particular bridge.

The bigger question - the one that should serve as guidance, is - "should I ever burn a bridge?"

The short answer is "no", but that doesn't mean that bridges aren't being burned all around you.

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The more verbose way of saying "don't burn bridges", is to say "don't take a proactive action where the purpose of that action is to destroy an ongoing interaction pathway between you, and someone else."

This does, however, leave A LOT of wiggle room.

If someone takes an action that torches the bridge you built, there's the possibility that you might nuke it. Consider the client who, when you say to them "if you'd like to use that photograph of so-and-so for an ad campaign, we'll need to discuss an extended rights package and the associated fees for that", says "huh? We own the photo, we're not paying you another dime, and we're doing what we want with it." That blatantly F-U response warrants calling in the lawyers and filing suit. Result? Bridge burned.

What if, however, you observe a fellow photojournalist working for the organization you do staging a news photograph, and your photo editor, knowing you were there, comes to you and says "hey, did Jane Doe set that photo up, or did it just happen spontaneously, like Jane says?" By answering truthfully, you know that Jane might be fired at worse, and at best, she will be angry with you and never speak to, or trust you again because you wouldn't cover for her. Your truthful answer would burn the bridge. I submit that you should speak the truth, and not further the cover-up.

Suppose you are a working photographer and an educator at a local university, and a friend/colleague of yours is being critisized because, for example, they were shooting at a sports event and their actions changed the outcome of the game. For example, a shutter click at a golf tournament, an errant lens on a basketball court in-bounds that trips up a player running down court, or being in the pit and inadvertently interfering with a refueling stop for a driver that penalizes them a few seconds. When your students say "what do you think of the news about Jim Smith messing up that game...", and your saying "well I know Jim, and he's generally a responsible photographer, but he was in the wrong on that one..." and Jim gets wind of it. If he's honest with himself, he will acknowledge he was in the wrong, but more than likely, he won't like that you criticised him.

On the other hand - suppose you overheard some of your peers taking smack about you, or your photography? Should you get sucked in and defend yourself, and in turn, start talking smack about them, either to their face, or behind their back? No. While you can pretend you don't hear what's being said, you can realize that those that are not only talking smack, but more importantly, those in that group that you thought were your friends are not sticking up for you, aren't really your friends. Don't engage, just apply the old adage - keep your friends close, and your enemies closer.

Frankly, when I have something critical to say of someone, it must be something that I am willing to also say to that person's face. Do I, for example, think there are people who are doing a grave disservice to the photographic profession? Do I think that there are people who are just plain jackasses? Do I think that there are people who talk smack about or to others, and hope that those they are talking smack about don't learn about it? In all three situations, the answer is yes. Also, in all three situations, I would (and in some cases have when the opportunity arose) suggested as much to them.

Do I know that there are people in the photographic community that feel that I have burned my bridges to them? Sure. Yet, during the burning, it was because I stood up for what I believed to be right (and over time, those beliefs have turned out to be truths) despite the easy path being to just say nothing. The measure of a man is not where he stands in times of comfort and ease, but where he stands in times of adversity and challenge. Over time, instead of me recognizing that the bridges were burnt and saying to hell with so-and-so, the smarter path is to just remain silent, and let the other side re-build the bridge. On more than one occasion, that has happened to me.

If the consequences of doing what is right, honest, truthful, and just, is that a bridge is burned, then, so be it. In those instances, it wasn't your actions per se that caused the bridge to be burned, but rather, a consequence of someone doing something wrong, dishonest, deceitful, or unjust.

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Sunday, July 12, 2009

Behind The Cover - Vogue Magazine

Years ago, I had the opportunity to work with R.J. Cutler when he produced The War Room, and another project. Now, RJ has turned his documentary style on Anna Wintour at Vogue, for an amazing look behind the scenes at what goes into the most important fashion tome of every year, the September Issue of Vogue. Rivaling many cities' entire phone book in size, the best fashion and best fashion photography are showcased every year in this issue. This is a real-life incarnation of The Devil Wears Prada, which was based upon Wintour, and played by Glenn Close. I can't wait to see the movie. Here's the trailer.

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