Modern Photojournalism

Now more than ever with the advent of smart phones, and even basic phones with a camera on them, more and more people are self proclaimed “photojournalists.” Photojournalism, according to Wikipedia, is “a particular form of journalism (the collecting, editing, and presenting of news material for publication or broadcast) that creates images in order to tell a news story.” This form of journalism thrives on three components: timeliness, objectivity, and a narrative structure. In the beginning of this industry, a reporter had to have a professional skill set in order to enter into the private world of photojournalism. In the modern world, now that a lot of people prefer to get their information and news from the internet, everyone can be a photo journalist, and journalism has taken a new turn.

Last semester, I was approached at the bus stop and asked to answer a quick survey being done of Penn State University Park students. They were required to ask me one question: How do you get your news? Without blinking, I said “Twitter”. This startled my questioners, which in turn startled me! About 30 minutes before President Obama’s televised announcement of Osama Bin Laden’s capture and demise, I saw a tweet about it. This is just one of many examples of how social media fuels news. When the Flyers win a game, I see it on twitter first. When breaking news occurs regarding on some university scandal, I always resort to twitter. The timeliness of social media helps contribute to journalism because people always feel the need to tweet or post their feelings immediately after something happens.

Not only does social media fuel the news, but pictures are ALWAYS posted, resulting in large group sharing and viewing. I mentioned earlier that photojournalism thrives on objectivity. Usually when people post a picture of an event or a place (like the Grammy Awards, the Christmas tree in New York City, or concert photos), they post them objectively for their followers or friends to discuss. Not only is this a trait for photojournalists, but the timeliness of their photos also fuels good discussion with their peers. Sometimes, twitpics make news headlines and are bought by news sites in order to get the best story for THEM.

I’m not arguing that everyone CAN be a photojournalist. I’m merely speculating that photojournalism has taken a new social turn in 2011 and turned into a huge group sharing and commenting fest. Channing Johnson, photojournalist in Michigan and Vermont brings up a good point when he states: “one thing professionals can offer that amateurs can’t is ethics.” And sure, maybe a percentage of tweeters and twitpic-ers have attended an ethics class in college. But the reality is most of the public is just posting because they think what they saw was cool and wanted to share it with their friends.


For more info and other opinions, visit for their article on Where Have All The Photojournalists Gone?

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