a year through a lens by Marco Pavan

virtual iraq

Posted in random thoughts, web 2.0 by marco on 21 November 2009

check Lisa Barnard‘s Virtual Iraq: the video game as therapy.

Advertisements

italian tv news fakes Samoa tsunami

Posted in random thoughts, web 2.0 by marco on 30 September 2009

(english version below)
Parliamo di “giornalismo”…

Studio Aperto, il “telegiornale” di Italia Uno, ha mandato in onda un servizio sullo tsunami alle Samoa, spacciando per le prime immagini dal luogo del disastro un filmato del 2007  registrato durante la tromba d’aria all’Heineken Jammin’ Festival tenutosi a Mestre, vicino a Venezia.

Potete vedere qui il servizio di Studio Aperto (eventualmente anche su YouTube) e qui lo  “tsunami” mestrino.

Un esempio di ottimo giornalismo direi…

—————————————-

Ok, that’s not about photography, but journalism…

In a feature about the recent tsunami in the Samoa islands,  Studio Aperto, the news of Italia 1 (ehm, a channel owned by the family of our prime minister Berlusconi), used as the  “first images” of the disaster some footage taken during the flooded Heineken Jammin’ Festival held in Mestre, near Venice, in 2007.

You can see the original news here (or on YouTube)and the “tsunami” from Mestre here.

Yeah, great example of journalism!!

Why would you be a photojournalist today?

Posted in random thoughts, web 2.0 by marco on 15 July 2009

“I have always considered being crazy as important to a photographer as being curious.”

by Dirck Halstead

Sad but true… only mad people would try to make a living as photojournalis nowadys. What you think?

twitter power

Posted in web 2.0 by marco on 11 July 2009

ok, see what happened to the number of visits on this blog when I tweeted my post over Demotix (July, 6th):

blogvisitsIt can seem stupid, but I begin understanding the power of Twitter.

Tagged with: , ,

Demotix, blurring the boundary between professionals and amateurs

Posted in assignment, mapjd, web 2.0 by marco on 6 July 2009

NOTE: This is a short essay I wrote for the master in photojournalism I am attending. It is part of a group of essays written by the students all related to the subject  of “citizen photojournalism”.

Citizen Photojournalism Research Paper
MA Photojournalism and Documentary Photography
LCC University of the Arts, London

In this essay I am going to analyze Demotix as a case study and see how their vision of the market affects the definition of citizen photojournalism.
According to their site, “Demotix is a citizen-journalism website and photo agency. It takes user-generated content (UGC) and photographs from freelance journalists and amateurs, and markets them to the mainstream media.” In this sentence it is interesting to point out that they deal with citizen content but at the same time among their contributors there are professional freelances. The final users of the site are the mainstream media, such as magazines and on-line daily papers. On the ‘sales’ page we can see some of the clients working with Demotix’s citizen content.
The definition in the website continue saying that “Demotix was founded with two principles at its heart – the freedom of speech and the freedom to know. Its objective is nothing if not ambitious – to rescue journalism and promote free expression by connecting independent journalists with the traditional media.” The idea behind this it is to connect people living and working around the world, especially in the majority world, and make their stories available to the mainstream media and by consequence to the people living in western countries.
Let’s now see more in detail how Demotix works. Some of this information is easy to find in the website, other pieces of information come from a conversation with Andy Heath, commissioning editor, which I had on the 11th of June 2009.

What Demotix offers to photographers

The work of the photographers “con be seen (and licensed) by all of the mainstream media, all over the world, all the time”.  This is due to the global and extremely varied distribution network of Demotix. And they make sure that the photographers always keep the copyrights of their images, that are licensed for specific uses (as a normal photographic agency would do).
The difference towards other UGC communities and agencies, it that Demotix says they sell everything at professional rates., and saying ‘everything’ they mean “Street Journalist, Amateur, Professional, camera-phone or 12MB wonder-photo”. The fee of each image sold then will be split in two, 50% to the photographer and 50% to the agency.
One of their mantra is that “when it comes to sales, we don’t care who you are of where you’re from. We’re raising Street Journalists to professional rates (comparable and competitive with all the big, established newswires and photo agencies)”.
The concept is that if the photographs are worth (if their newsworthiness is strong enough), they deserve to be paid at market fees: that is what Demotix tries to do.
But Demotix is not only about selling. Demotix is also a community where photojournalists can virtually meet, give advices to other users, critique each other’s work and possibly arrange live meetings.

How Demotix works

Demotix and its team of editors act as a filter and aggregator of citizen photojournalism stories. Everything which is considered newsworthy and interesting is allowed on the website. Some works will be published in the homepage, others will be featured on the widget that Demotix offers to the clients. Other stories will only be uploaded in the community.
Demotix publishes everything that count as news (it happens that some images are rejected, because they do not have any context). Local or global issues, classical new stories, a single breaking event or a long photo essay in pure documentary style can be uploaded on Demotix.
In these pictures we can see some examples: from the politics, to the riots in Iran, from the black and white reportage to the fashion shows.

Editing and packaging
The editors working at Demotix decide what is important and fits the agency and often attach a story to it, also looking back in the archive.
Demotix adds extra value to a story and present a complete package to the mainstream media targeting individual media organizations.
If a story is good, Demotix pumps it out to the mainstream media and makes sure it will be seen.
The agency is only about one year old and most of its contributors are amateurs, however Demotix has a 25-year strong experience in journalism and the stock photography industry. Turi Munthe, the CEO, has appeared on pretty much every major international News Channel; and Jonnie Leger, the Head of Sales, has lectured on how to sell images all over the world.

The user of Demotix

Born a bit more than one year ago and launched in the market last January, Demotix now has almost 6.000 contributors, quite evenly split in three categories.

Complete amateurs
People who shoot with a cell phone or a point-and-click camera. They do it essentially for the fun of it and they tend to be opportunistic and take a picture only when they see something interesting.

Passionate amateurs
People who go out to find stories and do proper reports, but they have no background in photojournalism and no expectation to be paid every time.

Professionals
The “top third”, people who often used to work for main agencies and now want to be on their own to have more flexibility.

The Future of Demotix

Demotix is growing constantly, without pushing on advertising. Compared to other citizen photojournalism platforms (for example CNN iReport) they say they have a much better content. According to Andy Heath, this happens because new people coming to Demotix “look around before doing their upload and they get an impression of what is the standard”.
Demotix wants also to suggest assignments, give technical advices, exchange critical advices, and bring in some renown photojournalist to give help to the less experts.
They want essentially to become the “market place for news”. People should think to upload their newsworthy photographs on Demotix rather than Flickr or Twitpic, knowing that potentially they can be seen by thousands of other people and make some money. “Uploading in our network – adds Andy – it would be sufficient to get that around and get it seen by the mainstream media, if however a good news story uploaded on Demotix we will pump it out to the mainstream media, we will make sure they will see it. And that’s the difference.”

The street journalist

The term ‘citizen journalist’ invents a false dichotomy between ‘citizen’ and ‘professional’. The only difference to look out for nowadays, when it comes to journalism, is quality.
Turi Munthe, CEO of Demotix

It is not an arbitrary distinction, but it is a spectrum.
Andy Heath, commissioning editor

The idea that lies behind Demotix is that the market is changing as well as the way of reporting news. Nowadays it is much easier to report, film and photograph an event. The traditional notion of photojournalism is wider and essentially everybody can become a photojournalist because even a frame shot with a mobile phone can make the front page of a newspaper, if its newsworthiness is strong enough.  The idea of “citizenism”, says Andy Heath, implies inclusion and the set of citizen journalists includes the professional journalists. The term “citizen journalism” carries an arbitrary distinction between the two, a distinction that, according to Demotix, we should avoid to do. “Somebody out there with a Nikon is a photojournalist and somebody taking snaps is a photojournalist too, obviously the first one is much more able and has better equipment [..] but both are in the same scale of photojournalism. If you are involved in capturing news and in graphical form then you are a photojournalist.” This idea can visually be explained with this diagram, where in the circle on the right there is not any more any distinction between amateur and professionals.

The future of photojournalism

Some researches recently analyzed the role of the media in foreign reporting and how journalists find and reports the news.
A research by Cardiff University for Nick Davies’ book Flat Earth News found that journalists spend a large amount of time monitoring other media and the big news wires. “The job is far more office-based, with news desks often lacking the resources to send reporters out on stories” (Lewis, 2008).
Moreover, the number of foreign news bureaus is decreasing, and there is an increasing reliance on news agency feed and information derived from the public relations industry (House of Lords, 2008).
So, it happens that “much of the abundant news is homogeneous: news organizations often cover stories from the same angles and different news organizations repeatedly present the same information in their stories (be their images, quotes, or descriptive passages)” (Witschge, 2009).
Demotix was born to try to find an alternative solution to this evolution of the news market. It tries to encourage local amateur photographers to document their world, because that is considered better than having a professional “parachuted” somewhere for a short period of time. Demotix undercuts that kind of journalism and is trying to bring into the market the category of the amateurs who deserve, as well as professionals, to be paid for their work.
In this way Demotix broaden the market and they know they are going to affect the professional journalists, but they think that it is a way to save the foreign reporting in the newspaper and to have different angles on the news. Using the stories featured by Demotix, the papers can cut the expenses of having a reporter abroad and in this way have the possibility to get some fresh foreign news. And, at the same time, local amateurs can show the events with a different and more committed point of view.

Citizen journalism?

I am going to conclude including a definition of citizen journalism which is widely used:

When the people formerly known ad the audience employ the press tools they have in their possession to inform one another, that’s citizen journalism.
Jay Rosen, professor of journalism at the New York University

Considering what is happening today, with the massive use of twitter and blogs, the amount of citizen news coming from all over the world and the active role of the “people formerly known as the audience”, the boundary between audience and reporters appears to be precarious.
Ryan Sholin, American blogger and journalist, in a comment in Jay’s blog wrote that using “inform each other” is more appropriate (Rosen, 2008). Everyone can find himself in the position of having more information to share with the others, and the relationship can be suddenly inverted. It gives the idea of an exchange in two directions.
Given all that, probably, the inclusive definition of “street journalism” (but maybe not the term itself) given by Demotix can be highly appealing. “The only difference to look out for nowadays, when it comes to journalism, is quality”, intended as newsworthiness.


Bibliography

Appafrica and Munthe, T. (2008) Interview with Demotix [Internet]
Available from <http://appfrica.net/blog/archives/572 >
[Accessed 29 June, 2009]

Citizen Media, in The state of the Media 2008 [Internet]
Available from <http://www.stateofthemedia.org/2008/narrative_online_citizen_media.php?cat=6&media=5>
[Accessed 29 June, 2009]

Heat, A. (2009), Interview with the author. London, 11 June [Andy Heath is the commissioning editor at Demotix]

House of Lords (2008), The ownership of the news [Internet]
Available from <http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/ld200708/ldselect/ldcomuni/122/122i.pdf >
[Accessed 29 June, 2009]

Lewis, J. et al (2008), The Quality & Independence of British Journalism, Cardiff School of Journalism, Media and Cultural Studies
Available form <http://www.mediawise.org.uk/display_page.php?id=999>
[Accessed 29 June, 2009]

Rosen, J. (2008), A most useful definition of citizen journalism [Internet]
Available form <http://journalism.nyu.edu/pubzone/weblogs/pressthink/2008/07/14/a_most_useful_d.html>
[Accessed 29 June, 2009]

Witschge, T. (2009), Street journalists versus ‘ailing journalists’? [Internet]
Available from <http://www.opendemocracy.net/node/47616/>
[Accessed 29 June, 2009]