Tag Archive: journalism


Brauer’s back in Russia July 30-Aug. 11 — and the next exchange is accepting applications, too

I’m excited to announce that I’ll be returning to Russia next week to take part in the Bilateral Presidential Commission Mass Media Sub-Working Group meeting (that’s a ridiculous mouthful…). Last year, I was one of 12 journalists from the US that participated in the inaugural US-Russia Young Media Professionals Exchange (the second exchange will happen in a few months, and applications are being accepted until August 9), administered by the International Center for Journalists and funded by the Knight Foundation. Now, as part of a continued cooperation and dialogue between the Putin and Obama administrations, this meeting next week will be an opportunity for delegates from newsrooms, academia, and government, in both countries to talk about the business, process, and nature of journalism in both countries. I’ll be representing the other journalists who went on the exchange last year to talk about what went right and what went wrong on the exchange.

I’ll be in St. Petersburg for a couple of days and then available Aug. 3 – Aug. 10, tentatively planning to head north from St. Petersburg.

A bit about the exchange: Twelve Americans traveled to Moscow and worked in newsrooms there for 3.5 weeks (I was at ITAR-TASS Photo; others were at Kommersant, Ogonek, Moskovskii Komsomolets, Komsomolskaya Pravda, and other major news organizations in the country) and twelve Russians came to the US to work in newsrooms here, including Oregon Public Broadcasting, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, the Seattle Times, and the Miami Herald. It was a phenomenal opportunity to take my previous life as a Russian major and mix it with my current life as a photojournalist.

My experience in Moscow involved working closely with editors in the news and assignment desks at ITAR-TASS Photo and go on daily assignments alongside the agency’s wire photographers. You can see some of the images I took during my time in Moscow and a reporting trip to Ufa, Bashkortostan, Russia, above. The nature of these daily assignments was quite interesting, especially coming from a background of newspaper and magazine photography in the US. The majority of the assignment work I saw involved a press conference, media availability, or official opening or tour. Access to politicians and businesses was extremely limited and heavily negotiated for each assignment. ITAR-TASS is a state news agency, but their operating budget, from what I understand, comes entirely from photo licensing and sales. Images of Putin and Medvedev, of course, are the biggest sellers, but the agency frequently covered opposition politicians while I was there. An editor told me the market for those types of images was generally limited to publications in Moscow and outside of Russia. I also got the opportunity to talk extensively with photographers from ITAR-TASS and other Moscow publications, sharing what it’s like to work in the US and learning about being a photojournalist in Russia. Many expressed frustration about the subjects their papers covered, how politics is reported in the media, lack of access on all types of stories, general suspicion of journalists and photographers (one photographer told me about getting harassed while taking pictures of holiday lighting in a busy shopping area of Moscow).

We also had substantial opportunity to meet with editors and journalists at many newspapers in Moscow, though most of these were state-run operations. When asked about their approach to the news, an editor at Komsomolskaya Pravda said, “We support the President,” and said that stance is what guides the newspaper’s reporting. Other reporters at that publication and elsewhere told us that the relationship with the administration was a bit more complicated than that. While living in China, I became accustomed to the Chinese way of controlling the media through daily directives of what can and cannot be published. I expected that something like that would exist in Russia, but in talking with editors and reporters, heard of no such centralized control of newsrooms. Rather, reporters we spoke with seemed to have a general sense of what news would and wouldn’t fly in daily editorial meetings, not unlike newsrooms in the US. Of course, they said their editors would rarely approve a story critical of the administration, but even one of the largest newspapers in the country isn’t afraid to criticize Putin’s party or investigate murders of journalists. That editor, Pavel Gusev, told our group that he had no problem printing journalism critical of the administration, so long as it could be backed up with facts and honest journalism.

One of the biggest shortfalls of the exchange was that we did not have any official meetings with independent and opposition journalists and publications. This was to be expected, but there was opportunity to arrange those sorts of meetings on our own. Online and social-media focused journalism and blogging is a significant force in Russian politics and society, and I only saw glimpses of that.

Definitely consider applying for the next exchange. It is scheduled for this fall, and the deadline for applying is August 9, 2013.

Covering the DNC and RNC? NPPA has a handy legal and practical guide for the conventions and protests

Police arrest OccupyBoston protesters at their second encampment at Rose F. Kennedy Greenway a block from Dewey Square, in downtown Boston, Massachusetts, USA.  - M. Scott Brauer

Police arrest OccupyBoston protesters at their second encampment at Rose F. Kennedy Greenway a block from Dewey Square, in downtown Boston, Massachusetts, USA. - M. Scott Brauer

While covering these events police may ask to see your images, recordings or files. Be aware that you do not have to consent to such a request. They may try to intimidate, coerce or threaten you into doing so but “consent” must be voluntary. You should know that absent consent or “exigent circumstances” an officer may not seize your camera. Exigent circumstances only exist where an officer has probable cause to believe a crime has been committed AND that you have captured evidence of that crime on your camera AND that there is also a strong likelihood that such evidence may be lost if the camera is not seized.

Are you planning on covering the Republican or Democratic National Conventions at the end of August and beginning of September? You should be aware of legal and practical issues that may arise during the process of documenting both the conventions and the protests around the conventions. The National Press Photographer’s Association has a handy guide that covers the basics of covering both conventions, ranging from what to do if you’re arrested to how to stay safe in a crowd to dealing with the heat. The guide also includes a brief survey of local and federal ordinances and laws that will apply to people on the scene and educated guesses on how police may treat journalists based on recent actions of police in Chicago during the NATO summit protests earlier this year. For instance, items that could be considered weapons will not be allowed close to the convention areas and include items photographers might bring along such as tripod, monopods, and ladders.

Stay safe out there!

DIY Journalism Warning Labels

Journalism Warning Labels - Tom Scott

Journalism Warning Labels - Tom Scott

I love these. Tom Scott has been surreptitiously placing homemade warning labels on newspapers where he sees problematic reporting. It’s a great reminder that everything printed in newspapers and magazines should be read with a skeptical mind. The stickers are available in a ready-to-print A4-sized pdf for Europe and a letter-sized pdf for the US.

New media business strategies burn out young journalists early

 

“Young journalists who once dreamed of trotting the globe in pursuit of a story are instead shackled to their computers, where they try to eke out a fresh thought or be first to report even the smallest nugget of news — anything that will impress Google algorithms and draw readers their way.” -The New York Times, “In a World of Online News, Burnout Starts Younger

Newspaper and magazine websites have long been listing their most popular, most read, and most emailed stories in prominent places. Organizations such as Gawker, Bloomberg News, CNET, and others, have tied reporters’ pay, in part, to how many times readers click on their articles. This so-called Pay-Per-View journalism has been heralded as one of the possible saviours of journalism in the internet age, but it’s taking its toll. In a recent New York Times article, the Chicago Tribune’s managing editor was quoted, “You can’t really avoid the fact that page views are increasingly the coin of the realm.” By juking headlines to drive search traffic, guiding coverage toward what is most popular, and endless promotion and “branding” for both media companies and individual journalists (definitely read that link), newspapers and magazines are doing whatever they can to stay relevant and solvent. One side effect, though, is that journalists are burning out younger than ever before. The 24 hour push for clicks, shares, and tweets, is driving young reporters into the ground. “At a paper, your only real stress point is in the evening when you’re actually sitting there on deadline, trying to file,” Jim VandeHei, Politico’s executive editor, told the New York Times. “Now at any point in the day starting at 5 in the morning, there can be that same level of intensity and pressure to get something out.”

(via Slashdot)

Update: Trespassing charge against Ethan Welty dropped

I just heard some great news from our friend Ethan Welty who we wrote about in April after he was arrested in Colorado after an environmental protest. As of this week, the charges against him have been dropped. At the time I wrote,

Shortly after the four who had trespassed on the plant’s property were arrested and escorted out police approached Welty, who was on property outside of the power plant, and arrested him. All five were charged with 2nd Degree Criminal trespass, which carries a maximum penalty of six months in jail and a $750 fine. Welty is trying to set the record straight, as media is reporting that simply five were arrested at the protest and no one (including the police) is acknowledging that he was there covering the event as a member of the press and that he was obviously not with the four protesters inside the plant.

The arraignments for all five arrested on that day were scheduled for June. To Welty’s knowledge, the four who had been documented trespassing on the coal pile have had their meetings rescheduled to July. Welty had his arraignment rescheduled after a telephone meeting between the District Attorney and his attorney, who is a University of Colorado professor who took the case pro-bono. Following this meeting the DA dismissed the charges. Welty provided this run-down of the reasons:

- the DA, not yet having reviewed the case, was assuming that I had been on the coal pile, so my attorney asks the DA to take a closer look at my case, sending a few of my pictures and mentioning I have several testimonies from witnesses present during the action
- the DA proceeded to contact the police, who informed her that no officers had seen me trespass, and that they had not recorded the name of the Excel Energy security guard who had pointed me out
- with no evidence against me other than the word of an unnamed Excel employee, the DA decided to dismiss my charges rather than to bring my case to trial

This is great news and we are happy for Welty. However he has mentioned that his next step will “be to find a civil (rather than criminal) attorney to scrub official records of my arrest, which to my surprise does not happen automatically when charges are lifted.” There also remains the faulty news accounts of his arrest which we discussed in our original post and were picked up by other websites including re: photo and the always troubling and enlightening Photography is Not a Crime blog.


As well we should mention that Welty has been incredibly busy lately even besides his legal issues. He recently had the cover image of Backpacker Magazine, and was interviewed by the magazine itself to tell you how he did it. He also won an International Conservation Photo Award for an image he made in the North Cascades of our home state of Washington. Oh, and he wrote:

Meanwhile, I’m involved in (too) many projects. In Boulder County, partnering up with photographer Morgan Heim to document local biodiversity for MeetYourNeighbours(.org); in the North Cascades, photographing areas being proposed for national park and wilderness expansion by the conservation community; in Boulder doing my own research on mapping urban agriculture potential which my professors are urging me on to publish. And all that in addition to my classes, glacier research and the more mundane mechanics necessary to maintain momentum as a photographer. I’m excited to be convening (curating) a session on quantitative applications of photography in the Earth Sciences at the huge American Geophysical Union meeting in SF in December.

I’ve already got plans to write about many of those things here on dvafoto when Welty has them finished. Cheers to an energetic and passionate photographer for keeping up the good work and settling up fairly with the law.

Photojournalist arrested in Colorado after environmental protest

On Wednesday I got word from an old colleague and friend that he had been arrested in Colorado following his coverage of an environmental protest at the Valmont Power Plant near Boulder on Tuesday April 27th. Ethan Welty was independently covering the protest by environmental activists and was photographing from outside of the plant’s perimeter and in the crowd that had gathered. He has put together his pictures from the event on photoshelter. Shortly after the four who had trespassed on the plant’s property were arrested and escorted out police approached Welty, who was on property outside of the power plant, and arrested him. All five were charged with 2nd Degree Criminal trespass, which carries a maximum penalty of six months in jail and a $750 fine. Welty is trying to set the record straight, as media is reporting that simply five were arrested at the protest and no one (including the police) is acknowledging that he was there covering the event as a member of the press and that he was obviously not with the four protesters inside the plant. All five were booked and released on the misdemeanor charge, and are awaiting a June 17th court appearance.


Here is the statement he has been trying to circulate to the AP and other publications who have run stories about the event, who have included him by name as one of the protesters arrested (for instance, see coverage on Google News):

I’m writing on behalf of myself, in an attempt to set the record straight regarding yesterday’s arrests at the Valmont Power Plant.

I, Ethan Welty, was at the protest as an independent photojournalist following a news lead, and maintained that role throughout. My photos from the event, all taken legally from outside plant property (and linked below), make it extremely clear that I was not with the four activists on the coal pile, something your article (and by now the nation’s press) wrongfully implies. My questionable arrest occurred after theirs, suddenly and unexpectedly, while I was standing in the street by the rally.

He also described the situation to me in an email:
“My arrest occurred after the four protesters had been escorted out of the plant and into police vehicles. I was standing on the sidewalk besides the rally, two large cameras slung around my neck, when officers suddenly approached me, ordered me to stop shooting pictures and seized me by the wrist.

They informed me that Xcel Energy (who owns the plant) had pointed me out, claiming they had evidence of me trespassing – and thus I was under arrest. I was so shocked and confused that I could hardly utter a defense (being arrested was a first for me). To their credit, they were polite and very respectful of my equipment, allowing me to choose whether or not to hand over my gear for safekeeping. Concerned that my images might never see the light of day, I decided to trust a bystander with my memory cards, and supposedly I will be able to retrieve my camera equipment from the Boulder County Courthouse later this week [ed: Welty picked up the equipment on Thursday morning].
While the Sheriff’s Office lumped me with the four protesters (efforts at the jail to explain otherwise were stopped short with “tell it to the Judge”), according to a reporter, the Xcel spokesperson referred to me as the Daily Camera photographer (the local Boulder newspaper) – so Xcel was likely aware that I was press, and no protester.”

The Daily Camera has issued a correction to their story that originally said Welty was one of the protesters, but many other publications and the police have not recognized Welty as a member of the press. For the clearest and most disappointing example of how this has shown itself, see this article and screen grab of mugshots by Denver’s ABC television station, which had to correct its article after Welty contacted them.

The key document here is the Boulder County Sheriff’s Offices’ media release, which states that Welty was one of “five of the protesters [who] climbed over the fence and on to property belonging to Xcel”. He denies ever entering Xcel’s property and the evidence from his photographs support this. The statement does not mention anything about him being separate from the group nor a photographer. It is clear that there was lazy investigation and reporting by the police which led to lazy journalism by publications picking up the story, who have essentially reprinted the police’s inaccurate press release. Welty added that the four declined to make statements at the jail until they had spoken with their attorney, which is why they have not “gone on the record” saying that he was not part of the group.

This is an issue not just of press freedom for an independent photographer covering an event but of Ethan Welty’s ability to fight false accusations and bad reporting which have brought his name into media reports of the event. He stresses that the fact of this inaccurate and poor reporting, on both the Boulder Police’s part and the echoing media, is what has angered him the most. It seems likely that Welty will be able to fight against this charge in front of a judge in June and prove his innocent role in the event, but the media reports are already done and unlikely to be corrected or retracted in 6 weeks’ time.

Ethical Transgressions in Marco Vernaschi’s Coverage for the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting

What started as a long accusation in a lightstalkers thread has turned into a large-scale discussion involving a Pulitzer Center apology and coverage on the Guardian website. Marco Vernaschi’s coverage of child sacrifice in Uganda (another with the offending image removed and another) for the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting initially looked like a hard and gritty glance into a little-known-outside-of-Africa problem of ritual child sacrifice. Issues of exoticism and the colonialist view notwithstanding, numerous bloggers began lobbing serious allegations of paying for access, illegally exhuming a child’s body to take pictures of the corpse, child exploitation, and outright fabrication. A Developing Story raised some strong questions of both Vernaschi and the Pulitzer Center. The Pulitzer Center took time in responding to the allegations. Other bloggers led the charge, with Anne Holmes of Vigilante Journalist providing invaluable investigation into the case with Ugandan authorities. Holmes had previously interviewed Vernaschi for her blog and has retracted those articles due to concerns about Vernaschi’s ethics and journalistic process. The Pulitzer Center has issued a statement responding to these allegations, in which it agrees that the bounds of journalism, ethics, and human decency were crossed. Asim Rafiqui has a great perspective on the issue, as does Tewfic El-Sawey. Pay special attention Rafiqui’s analysis of the motivations for a photographer to manufacture a story as regards the media eco-system of photojournalism awards, publications looking for sensationalism, and historical portrayals of Africa. “Mr. Vernaschi’s transgression is not just that of an individual, but of an industry that never fails to trip over itself chasing the insane.”

As for the case at hand, a particular picture (now gone from the photographer’s site) depicted a young boy, nude, whose penis had been cut off and replaced with a catheter, all in full view. The image, duckrabbit argued, and which the Pulitzer Center eventually agreed with, violated the dignity of the child and, as such, went against various protections for children created by the UN, the UK, and other legal systems. The BBC, in fact, had previously run a photo of the boy, but did not show his face out of concern for the boy’s safety and dignity.

More worrying (well…I’m not sure there are levels of ethical reprehensibility here…it’s all pretty bad), Vernaschi asked a family to dig up the body of their murdered daughter so he could photograph the corpse (that picture has also been removed from the internet), as he explained in a post on the Pulitzer Center’s Untold Stories blog. The photographer said he was gathering evidence. Whether or not this is the role of the photojournalist, these actions cannot be excused. The exhumation violated local laws as well as most journalism and human ethics. While we can’t fault a photographer trying to drive home a story with shocking, hard-hitting pictures, staging a situation with money and violating bodies of the dead is well beyond any acceptable practices in journalism or human decency.  These ethical transgressions poison the entire story.

And while this controversy has gotten the pictures (and perhaps the story) to a wide audience, Joerg Colberg at Conscientious sums up the problem quite well at the end of this post, “Lastly, lest we forget this, there actually is a real story that needs to be talked about: child sacrifice in Uganda. But what will people remember? Will they remember the facts about child sacrifice in Uganda? Or will they remember a photojournalist who needed to get photos so badly that he had a dead child dug up (using money to achieve his goals)?”

And while some would say that after the Pulitzer Center’s apology, the problem has been satisfactorily dealt with, Asim Rafiqui entreats us to go further: “Not enough has been said on this issue. There will be some who will argue – move on! I say, No! Remain, think and consider. This touches on the very fundamentals of the future and meaning of our chosen craft. What is the intent of the work we do, and who are it’s audience? What is the role of journalism in our society, and in particular, what and how shall we engage with the world around us so that we see them not as alien, but human and worthy of being taken seriously? Too many young photographers are seduced by the mythologies of the craft. Mythologies that are woven by the practitioners and their publishers. Its time to stop, take stock, and weave better stories, and suggest better and more meaningful means of working. Its time to produce real stories and do so by finding real humanity and a sense of equal dignity and respect.”

Readings: recent articles on business and photography and journalism

  • Banjo extraordinaire Danny Barnes (I don’t know his music) has a great essay on “How to Make a Living Playing Music,” and he might as well be writing about making a living taking pictures. He starts “if you are a very materialistic person, skip this article, i don’t think you are going to like what it says.” The article is partly philosophical–don’t gossip, avoid people who talk about gear, “all the trouble in the world is going to come for you in two ways. the things you say, and the things you agree to do. be very careful about these items.”–but mostly practical–”the main business strategy is to build your own audience,” “don’t be afraid to do other things to make money in the short term,” and

    “be totally square on your taxes. render unto caesar that which is caesar’s. if you try to fudge on this, it will come back to bite you every time. get receipts for everything, 1099 everyone no matter what, unless they are a corporation.”

    The whole thing’s a fascinating insight into what allows a successful musician to keep doing what he loves, and has many parallels to photographers working on a career.

  • Kenneth Jarecke’s “2009 – Year of Transition” has a great analysis of what 2009 meant to many freelancers. He explains why he turned down editorial work (a first for Jarecke), talks about new strategies for distribution, cogently analyzes the havoc caused by editorial layoffs and how it will affect the future, and the stupidity of photographers signing “work for hire” contracts for $1200 a day with big clients.
  • PDN talks with the Aftermath Project jurors to find out “What It Takes To Win An Aftermath Project Grant
  • Joerg Colberg’s excellent “We’re all Zapruders now (but that doesn’t make us journalists)” examines what it means when everyone has a camera and how that’s different from journalism.

    “I don’t ever recall hearing or seeing anyone describe Abraham Zapruder as a “citizen journalist”. He was seen as what we was: A chance bystander who happened to have a camera (and use it) the moment the American president was shot and killed.”

    The piece ends with strong argument for what society stands to lose by getting rid of professional journalists.

  • Magtastic Blogsplosion surveys many perspectives on upcoming tablet devices and what they may mean for magazines in “The revolution to come.”

    “The industry also wants to avoid the newspaper dilemma – publishers were so excited to give away their content for free in the early days of the web, that there was no thought to an industry business model – and the toothpaste is proving difficult to push back into the tube.”

    And check out Magtastic’s collection of groups using the newspaper format in innovative ways in “What Newspapers Did Next” and “What Newspapers Did Next (2).”

  • The New York Times covers big media companies’ likely plan to begin charging for online content in “Adding Fees and Fences on Media Sites.” Among the problems faced by the old guard,

    “It is the established media, with their legacy of high operating costs and outdated technology, that face this problem. Leaner, newer online competitors will continue to be free, avidly picking up the users lost by sites that begin to charge.”

  • PDNPulse talks with the Wall Street Journal photo department and examines how the newspaper’s attitude toward visual journalism has changed under Murdoch. PDN reports: “The good news for photography is that our editor, Robert Thomson, is a very visual person,” says Jack Van Antwerp, the paper’s photography director. And while you’re at it, check out the Wall Street Journal’s 2009 Year in Photos, which includes many friends.

When was the last time you bought a newspaper?

 

‘Show of hands, how many of you have bought a newspaper in the last week?’ Usually no one raises their hand.” -Greg Ceo

 

Greg Ceo likes to survey his students in his Business Practices for Photography class at Savannah College of Art and Design. Usually, in his classes, a couple of students have purchased a newspaper in the last month, and none are subscribers. Great post on his blog about reactions to the survey. (via APhotoEditor)

US newspaper circulation has hit a 70 year low. Here’s a graphic illustration of the past 20 years of major US newspapers’ circulation sizes. The aging “creative class”, who once staffed newsrooms, production departments, and studios, is finding that there’s no work to be had.

Meanwhile, the Christian Science Monitor seems to have found success after switching to a majority-online publication, seeing an increase in paid subscribers.

That doesn’t mean I’m going to like reading online any time soon…

Your idea to save journalism will not work because…

After a recent entry in the neverending debate on the death of journalism and how to save newspapers, Metafilter user fightorflight took a page from an old antispam email forward (which in turn might well be based off of sci-fi writer Robert Heinlein’s solution to fan mail) and developed this standard response letter. A shortened version:

Check as many as apply:

Your [idea] advocates a

	( ) technical ( ) legislative ( ) market-based ( ) crowd-sourced

approach to saving journalism. Your idea will not work. Here is why it won’t work. (One or more of the following may apply to your particular idea, and it may have other flaws owing to the avaraciousness of modern publishers.)

	( ) It does not provide an income stream to the working 
	    journalist
	( ) Nobody will spend eight hours sitting in a dull council 
	    meeting to do it
	( ) Users of the web will not put up with it
	( ) Print readers will not put up with it
	( ) Good journalists will not put up with it

[...]

Specifically, your plan fails to account for

	( ) The existence and popularity of the BBC
	( ) The massive tedium of investigative journalism
	( ) Editorial departments small enough to be profitable are too 
	    small to do real reporting
	( ) Reluctance of governments and corporations to be held to 
	    account by two guys with a blog
	( ) The tiny amounts of money to be made from online ads for 
	    small sites

[...]

and the following philosophical objections may also apply:

	( ) Ideas similar to yours are easy to come up with, yet none 
	    have ever been shown practical
	( ) Society depends on journalists producing news that few 
	    readers are actually all that interested in, quite 
	    honestly
	( ) Having a free online "printing press" doesn't turn you 
	    into a journalist any more than your laser printer did
	( ) Citizen journalists are almost as good as citizen dentists
	( ) You are Jeff Jarvis

[...]

Furthermore, this is what I think about you:

	( ) Sorry dude, but I don't think it would work.
	( ) This is a stupid idea, and you're a stupid person 
	    for suggesting it.
	( ) Nice try, assh0le! I'm going to find out where you live and 
	    burn your house down!

- posted by fightorflight on Metafilter

Read on »