Sunday Leader printing press
I was at a journalism workshop, among other things. I’ve never really called myself a journalist or a photographer at first because I disdained these things, but now because I respect them. Once I thought they were just pretentious bloggers, but now I realize that it’s something else entirely. The German fellow in the workshop, Michael Gleich, drew something on the board which I think shows the difference. It’s a guy in front of a hill and on the other side of the hill is the story. That hill is an obstacle and what sets journalists and photographers apart is that they find some way to get over the hill. Others stay on the other side and muse and take photos from the distance, but it’s not the real story. Personally, I think the obstacle is more often than not inhibition. You don’t want to be rude, to ask, or to push. At least I don’t. That is why I’m still a pretty good blogger and a mediocre journalist.
Journalists, I think, get paid for their lack of inhibition. In my experience, to get paid you always have to give something away. You can rarely (if ever) get paid for doing exactly what you want. What journalists give away is their sense of politeness. For me, I don’t like calling anyone, even my friends. I don’t like asking anyone for anything. Yet, these are the tools of the journalists trade. I can cover a situation well if I’m in the situation, but I hate setting up the situation myself. That, I think, is the difference.
Blogging has its place is sifting through news and processing it through opinion, but it seems like real news gathering (going out and finding a story) still takes time, money and skill. You have to show up, hang around and eat, sleep and take care of your family in between. That type of quality story-telling, however, does not necessarily make as much money as it puts in. When there was a physical bottleneck (ie print) you could put a price and the bottleneck and editors could give people what they should read rather than what they wanted. Now, however, the bottleneck is less. I simply won’t pick up TIME or even the New York Times, ever. The media becomes more demand driven, and what’s in demand is big breaking news items and gossipy slanderous stuff. Thus paparazzi and press conference reports get paid while nature photographers and investigative journalists get cut.
I think, of course, this is a period of transition, but there is something for the professionalism of the latter age. It also came with a bunch of waste, bullshit and bias, so perhaps a change is due, but I’m not sure that an army of bloggers on typewriters can necessarily get the same story as an old-school journalist. Then again, mammals don’t look as cool as dinosaurs, but they somehow evolved.