Importance of professional photographers

Earlier this week, Marissa Mayer, the CEO of Yahoo said in a press conference, “there’s really no such thing as professional photographers anymore.”

As Jim Colton expressed on his blog, this is an insult to all professional photographers (and photojournalists).

The average person might have access to the same tools and social media makes it easy to share photographs.

But there are major differences between a professional photographer and the average citizen or so-called citizen journalist.

Professional photographers are willing to risk their lives in order to do their jobs as evident in recent crisis situations such as the Boston Marathon bombing and the tornado that struck Oklahoma City.

Chicago Tribune photographer Alex Garcia wrote on his blog:

When spectators with cameras were fleeing, they headed towards the madness of the explosion. [Boston Globe photojournalist John] Tlumacki took his iconic picture just 15 seconds after the first explosion.

Garcia explains that news photographers have a unique mission to share and bear witness unlike the casual observer with a camera.

Journalists have a responsibility to inform the public and to not mislead them.

In previous posts, I discussed the importance of ethics and the role that journalists (photojournalists) play, especially during times of crisis.

In addition, news photographers are expected to abide by a code of ethics.

As I wrote  in Why Media Literacy Matters – Quality journalism and ethics:

To ensure that photojournalists do not alter photographs or report stories that deceive the public, news organizations and the NPPA have established codes of ethics that they must abide by. Credibility is the greatest asset of journalists. It is wrong to alter the content of a photograph in any way (electronically or in the darkroom) that deceives the public. The preamble of the NPPA Code of Ethics states that photographs can cause great harm if they are manipulated.

Another difference between the professional and the average citizen is that professionals are trained to do their jobs.


Role of media during times of crisis

As Bill Mitchell explained, rather than focusing on the stories to tell, the media needs to focus on “What can we do?”

The first thing that the media needs to do is remind themselves – People need to be informed, not misled.

In my previous blog, Why Media Literacy Matters – Times of Crisis, I wrote that during emergency situations, spreading accurate information to the public is crucial.

Since the media plays a major role (usually the primary role) as a source of information for the public, it is crucial for the media to work with emergency management agencies during emergency situations.

Mitchell talks about how social media pages are used to help people connect with others and share information.

In Why Media Literacy Matters – Times of Crisis, I mentioned that the average person also plays an important role in disseminating media messages.

Social media makes it easy to communicate and share information with others.

I wrote in Media Literacy and Social Support:

Social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter and YouTube are powerful communications tools that can be used to help people in the aftermath of a disaster.

The ability to connect and instantly share information with other people is what makes social media a valuable tool. With social media, people can reach out to those in need and make a difference.

An important lesson that even the average person needs to learn is – Do not mislead.

In order to help others, accurate information needs to be shared.

It is also especially important to work together.