In a media landscape of shrinking budgets and a growing necessity for immediacy in reporting, we’re going to see more and more journalists with job descriptions like that of Marissa Calligeros from the Brisbane Times. Marissa is in charge of reporting breaking news for the Brisbane Times, and describes arriving on the scene of, say, a tragic house fire to:
1. Take photos,
2. Write three lines (usually on her smart phone) on the who, what, when, where, why and how of the story,
3. Interview someone on the scene, providing a video of the interview and a photo,
4. Several paragraphs explaining what has happened in detail,
5. Write at least two posts for the Brisbane Times’ live blog,
6. and then repeat the process of interviewing, updating the live blog and adding new information to the news story as it comes to light.
Calligeros is basically a one-woman news crew and although she admits to occasionally missing key points of a story or simply not being able to get certain bits of information, it’s obvious that she is incredibly talented. But how many of us are like her and would be able to sustain this kind of workload day in, day out? Calligeros describes the relief she feels when accompanied on a story by a photographer or videographer, giving her more time to focus on collecting information. In short, she can do what she’s been trained to and the photographer/videographer can take care of their end without having to worry about quotes and interviews. I fear that if journalists are being required to blog, provide video content, take photos on top of their normal duties of conducting interviews, chasing down leads and writing stories, the quality on each of these elements may fall.
For example, the Chicago Sun-Times recently laid off their entire staff of photographers and started training their journalists on the ‘basics’ of iPhone photography. This, says Richard Grech, is “like asking waiters to suddenly become chefs”. Photographer Alex Garcia from the Sun-Times rival publication, the Chicago Tribune writes:
“…the best reporters use a different hemisphere of the brain to do their jobs than the best photographers. Visual and spatial thinking in three dimensions is very different than verbal and analytical thinking.”
As a photographer himself, Garcia obviously has a vested interest in photojournalists keeping their niche within the machinery of a newspaper, but he is right. I’ve tried to be both the journalist and photojournalist a couple of times and while it’s not impossible, you’ll often miss great quotes while trying to take a photo and great photo opportunities while you’re trying to interview someone. Shrinking budgets are a reality that have to be considered, but surely there’s a way other than shoving all the responsibilities of a multimedia news organisation onto one person?