Monday, April 30, 2012

Future journalism students: Don't sign up for a training course (you're wasting your time)

In 2002, it was estimated there were 70,000 journalists working in the UK. In 2010, media expert Francois Nel estimated this figure to have fallen to 40,000.
  The most recent figures I can find for the number of journalism students is 2009 when 13,229 wannabes applied for courses. The same article in The Guardian gives anecdotal evidence that only 50 per cent of journalism graduates can expect to get a job.
  What I do know is that in 2012 this 50 per cent figure is likely to have decreased significantly.
  I have witnessed first-hand redundancies and huge downsizing of editorial offices in the national and local print media. Job losses have been almost faultlessly constant over the last five years and the rate of redundancies – and of papers going from daily to weekly – is becoming more rapid.
  And the question which keeps bouncing around my head is simple – why are universities still churning out graduate journalists when the jobs market has dried up?
  As with most of my writing on journalism, the same principles and question apply to editorial photography, two professions inexorably linked*.
  I was totally baffled when I read Chris Frost’s education article in the NUJ’s The Journalist magazine.
  Frost, a professor in journalism, wrote extensively about issues of journalism training for teachers and students, while totally failing to address the lack of jobs issue. I felt I was reading a propaganda piece for university journalism study.
  I do know why universities put on journalism and photography courses. They are popular, even with the introduction of tuition fees. The problem is universities look at the money they can rake in, not the actual prospects of the individual students.
  In America, Fox News chairman Roger Ailes told students not to go into journalism if they want to change the world. It’s a bleak picture whichever way you look.
  I was asked recently for advice about getting into journalism. Can you guess what I said? It was along the lines of: Don’t be f***ing stupid, get yourself another career.
And just to be clear, I have worked as a freelance journalist for nearly 20 years and have written for more magazines and newspapers that have died than any of you lot. 
*NOTE: I'm only talking about editorial photography here. Other forms of photography have not been plunged crisis.

Sunday, April 08, 2012

Philadelphia Freeze or Problems photographing the police in America

Following my report on photography bans in central London and at the 2012 Olympics in the same city I was emailed by a contact in America about a recent incident.

It seems there are issues about taking photographs of the police in Philadelphia.


When a Philadelphia photojournalism student took an image of a police officer he never expected to be held in custody for 24 hours.

When the student’s girlfriend picked up the camera that had fallen to the ground she never expected to be banged up for 18 hours. And fined. And made to do 12 hours community service (and, yes, I am talking about the girlfriend).

The land of freedom and opportunity. Do me a favour, luv.
Ian Van Kuyk’s mistake was to assert his right to photograph in the public domain when a police officer told him to stop.

The police officer is reported to have said: “Public domain, yeah we’ve heard that before!” then apparently knocking the student to the ground.
Van Kuyk’s subsequent arrest is as comical as it is worrying. For the record, the United States of America has a pretty good record on photography in public (except for bizarre proposals of a ban in New York City five years ago).

These are the photography facts of America right now: Though laws can vary in their leniency from state to state, in America it is generally legal to photograph anything and anyone on any public property, with some exceptions made for military installations.

Photographing a tourist attraction, whether publicly or privately owned, is generally considered legal, unless explicitly prohibited by posted signs (NOTE: as usual when I am talking about photographing, the same rules apply to filming/videoing).

Sensible stuff this. And so it should be. Would any country or city be stupid enough to ban photography at their major tourist areas?

If you see me in London, please don’t take my photograph.