Only 15% of news photographers are women: World Press Photo/Reuters Institute survey of photojournalists

Only 15% of news photographers are women. source: World Press Photo and the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism
Only 15% of news photographers are women. source: World Press Photo and the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism

Last year, World Press Photo and the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism published the results of an online survey of 1556 photographers who entered the 2015 World Press Photo annual competition, and the results are fascinating. The report, entitled The State of News Photography: The Lives andLivelihoods of Photojournalists in the Digital Age (← pdf), looks at the demographics of photographers, how for whom they work, how much they are paid, how the ethics of journalism and manipulation figure into their work, and other topics. The whole report is worth a look.

Particularly interesting in the report are the breakdowns of photojournalists by gender. Of the respondents, only 15% were women. Self-employment is much higher among women; 79.2% of women who responded to the survey are self-employed, while only 55.9% of men are. There is a higher percentage of female photographers than men in the lowest income bracket, earning between $0 and $29,999 from photography, and likewise proportionally fewer women than men in the highest income bracket reported in the study.

Of course, this is not a new problem, nor, frankly, is it surprising. I wrote about the issue in 2013, when a tumblr post by Daniel Shea, called On Sexism in Editorial Photography, went viral. Shea’s post has disappeared, but it’s preserved on the dvafoto tumblr, and it’s worth revisiting. Likewise, some of the links in my post about Shea’s piece have been lost to history, but many still exist and still deserve consideration. Looking at the WPP/Reuters Institute survey, it seems like things haven’t changed much since 2013.

Despite the disappointing results of this survey, it’s worth celebrating the tremendous work done by women photographers around the world. ViewFind recently published a great collection of what they call The Mighty 15%. The New York Times’ Women in the World earlier this month asked, “What’s at stake when so few of [stories from around the world] are told by women.” The Photo Brigade held a panel discussion in February about women in photojournalism. Last year, BuzzFeed posted about 12 Kick-Ass Women Photojournalists To Follow On Instagram. Ruth Fremson wrote an honest and thought-provoking piece on the subject in July of last year. And organizations such as Firecracker, the Inge Morath Foundation, and Women Photojournalists of Washington, provide vital support to women in photography.

There is one possibly positive note on the gender disparity in photojournalism in the WPP/Reuters Institute report. 49.6% of women who responded said that they “mostly” have control over the editing and production of their work. Only 37.9% of men said the same. The report attributes this to the self-employed/employee results in the survey, but it’s nice to see that 88.7% of women report “sometimes” or “mostly” having authority over their own work.

National Geographic magazine partners with Fox to become for-profit

National Geographic and 21st Century Fox have announced a new for-profit partnership taking over the magazine and other NatGeo media properties.
National Geographic and 21st Century Fox have announced a new for-profit partnership taking over the magazine and other NatGeo media properties.

I had to double-check the date on this to make sure it wasn’t an April Fool’s joke. The Washington Post is reporting today that National Geographic magazine, which has been a non-profit since 1888, will become for-profit in a new partnership with 21st Century Fox, Rupert Murdoch‘s media company. In addition to the magazine, the partnership includes National Geographic’s television channel and other media properties. The National Geographic Society, which has owned the magazine since the beginning, will remain non-profit and separate from this partnership.

National Geographic is no stranger to corporate partnerships, but this deal seems altogether different from private companies’ underwriting the organization’s grants and operations. In exchange for $725 million, Fox will own 73 percent of the new media company, called National Geographic Partners. The National Geographic Society will own the remaining 27 percent. The chair of the partnership’s board will rotate annually between a Fox representative and a National Geographic Society representative.

National Geographic’s press room has a bit more detail in a press release.

There’s little information about how this will change the magazine or National Geographic’s other media assets. The cable channel has been the subject of controversy in the past; close to my hometown, the channel’s reality show “American Colony: Meet the Hutterites” has been called distorted and exploitative by its subjects. Another National Geographic show featuring Montana, Diggers, has been criticized for promoting the looting of archaeological sites. And in the past, some of National Geographic’s photo contests have been rights grabs. Their ongoing Your Shot photography community allows National Geographic and its partners perpetual usage of submitted work.

WNYC’s On the Media had a good piece a few years back looking at what it called of National Geographic. The show questioned National Geographic Society CEO John Fahey and National Geographic Channel CEO David Lyle about the preponderance of trashy, “pulp” reality shows on the channel.

My hopes aren’t high for what this transition means. The American cable channel TLC was originally run by NASA and featured programming that fit well under its longer name, The Learning Channel. In 1980, the channel was acquired by a private company and began a long slide into what it has become now, a television channel featuring the worst of the worst “reality tv.” It will be interesting to see what becomes of National Geographic’s magazine and other media as this partnership takes hold.

Worth a watch: Vice News’ Selfie Soldiers – Russia checks into Ukraine

A couple weeks ago I wrote about Bellingcat’s efforts to learn more about wars through social media images, satellite imagery, and other sources. Now, Vice News have just released a 23-minute piece (embedded above) by Simon Ostrovsky tracking down a single Russian soldier through some of his social media posts from Ukraine. This provides evidence that Russian soldiers have been fighting in Ukraine, especially in the critical Battle of Debaltseve in January and February of this year.

Ostrovsky finds geo-tagged images from a man in a Russian soldier’s uniform who posted pictures in Ukraine and untangles his social media posts, eventually leading him to Ulan Ude in central Russia where he meets the man’s wife and eventually speaks to him on the phone, asking about whether or not he was in Ukraine. Ostrovsky’s journalism in this piece is wonderful. He finds the exact locations of countless photos from the soldier’s social media profiles, both in Ukraine and Russia, and recreates the photos himself. He confronts European observers with some of this evidence and challenges them as to why they won’t definitively say that Russia troops are in Ukraine. Watch until the end when Ostrovsky shows his matching photos to the soldier he tracked down.

If you haven’t been watching Simon Ostrovsky’s Russian Roulette series on the conflict in Crimea and Ukraine, by the way, you’re missing out. It is some of the best television journalism I’ve ever seen, and as of this writing there are 108 videos in the series. The pieces get in deep, have a bit of humor, and really personalize both sides of the conflict. Vice’s HBO news show is good, but Russian Roulette is on another level.