Photographers at the Baltimore Sun are withholding their bylines for three days this week in a dispute over newsroom convergence.
I think that’s likely to prove an ineffectual protest, and a misguided one.
The 18 photographers are upset that their employer wants to equip reporters with cameras so they can shoot stills and video for the Sun and its website.
The main point of the photographers’ complaint, which you can read in this news release from their union, is that the reporters will be preoccupied taking pictures and, as a result, will neglect other aspects of their reporting. They say it’s putting too much pressure on the reporters.
To me that sounds patronizing and self-serving. A reporter at a news scene will always have to make choices about what they do and how they do it. Yes, pictures and video complicate things and might cause a little confusion at first, but I’m betting the reporters and their assigning editors are smart enough to work out when a story needs pictures and/or video versus when the emphasis needs to be on observation and interviewing.
Any reporter who wants a long-term future in the industry should be eager to develop their multimedia skills.
Photographers, too, should be thinking in terms of media convergence and newsroom integration. Their specialist skills will always set them apart, but they may find themselves increasingly called upon to do their own interviews in the field too.
Convergence isn’t just for notebook-toting reporters, after all. It’s about all journalists broadening their skills and their contributions. And it’s happening, like it or not.