THE ROLE OF THE PHOTO JOURNALIST IN NEWS PRODUCTION

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The global world has been linked by communication.   People have become instant knowers of global happenings.  Countries are getting closer and closer by photographs, words and ideas, making the world a global village through the medium of newspapers, television, radio, magazines, advertising, among others.

Photo–Journalism, one of the medium of mass communication, has come to stay and has become an indispensable commodity, providing information, influencing thinking, inciting action, and entertainment through the aid of photographs for news production.  Indeed, without it, Journalism is meaningless or boring.  Journalism becomes lively and satisfactory when photographs are applied to illustrate stories.

Photos make or break media products, and make newspaper reading and news watching become more effective as one can better relate the news to real life situations and understand fully what it must be like to be in that actual place at that actual time (By Michael Wanke, Photographer)

The Photo-Journalist, is a trained or a professional person engaged in any media house, who carefully researches and constructs images with the aid of a camera to accompany a story for publication in newspapers and magazines.  Photo means light and Journalism means the art of writing.  The Photo-Journalist actually uses images to tell stories.

He is supposed to communicate with the readers and has to build a rapport with the people he or she is photographing.  The photos are supposed to possess objective qualities and unbiased when taken correctly with relevant content.

He needs an inquiring mind, a wide range of general knowledge and an appreciation of the issues that interest readers today and the ability to guess the ones which will be of interest next week.  Readers and viewers are left to judge for themselves and make their own decisions whether the pictures or photos are news worthy or carry the truth.

There is a lot of drama enough around as to provide the most stimulating photographs for display.  If newspapers and television stations fail to encourage photo-Journalism, how would they develop and prosper.  The more powerful an economy is, the more relevant the country’s photo journalism becomes.

Our media houses therefore need photojournalists of a vastly superior class, men and women who are well trained, duty conscious, full of energy and objective in discharging their duties.

The work of the photojournalist involves a wide range of the world around him.  He takes pictures and write on crime, law and order, political developments, the courts, the executive, the legislative, people, fashion, art, music, drama, literature, indeed, whatever makes news.

I am a strong advocate of educating and specialized training for newspapermen in any media house.

“The combination of photograph and journalism” was a term coined by Frank Luther Mott, historian and a dean of the University of Missouri School of Journalism, and this really made him famous after World War II (1939-1945)

The individual is not allowed to practise medicine unless he is certified by a duly recognized medical school.  Lawyers, Chartered Accountants and in some countries, even barbers and “beauticians” have to acquire a certificate that recognizes their competence.  It would be in the fitness of things, therefore, if newspapermen acquire adequate recognition of their associates.

In the circumstance, the only way to distinguish a professional from the amateur is to find out whether the person is actively employed on a full-time basis by a newspaper or a journal. If he is, he literally qualifies to be known as a professional. The freelance photojournalist -one who is not regularly employed but is a frequent contributor -is just a free-lance photojournalist.

Working on assignment, such as a fire or a multiple accident can be exciting, but a photojournalist cannot get much of a job done, if he permits himself to get excited.

A good reporting under such conditions calls for a calm and reasoned approach, to direct one’s camera in various perspective angles for quality pictures.

The first role in such events is for the photojournalist to maintain his cool.

Like a surgeon at the operating table.  He needs to observe, and should never take the pictures hastily.

In reporting public speeches by politicians, the photojournalist must always be fair, no matter what his personal feelings are.  The technique of “suppressio veri or suggestion falsi,’ to wit-suppression of truth- has no place in honest reporting.

Credibility and good attitudes towards work play very important role and provides the daily working guidelines for the newspaperman to decide what gets into print or onto airwaves.

The photo-journalist must be able to follow mass interests, must have analytical mind, must be able to visualize not only how a photo story may be developed, but the impact on the reader.

He should have the power of quick and accurate work, the ability to make fast decision and concentrate on his work.  He should be physically fit, have energy and ready to survive long working hours in the media house.  Physical tiredness could easily make him or her journalistically “accident-prone”.  He must be responsible and do his bit to serve the audience’s best interest.

Accuracy and objectivity are ethical principles a photo-journalist should have, to help produce quality photos for publication.  Unbiased photos could bring doubts and incredibility to the image of the paper as well as the reporter or the Photo-journalist.

Before the photographs are first used, the task is to check whether it is accurate, fair, complete, clear and has news value.

If the photograph has no news value, it is not worth printing, no matter how accurate it is and how the picture is composed. If it is not news worthy, it is “spiked”.

He should put himself in the position of the reader and ask himself whether the photograph impresses, or makes an impact.

A good photo-journalist would also keep a file on everybody he knows or ought to know, along with their correct addresses and telephone numbers, so that he can, at a moment notice, get in touch with them for information, comment or reaction.He also needs to maintain a “Diary” in which he can enter information or events to come;

The Photojournalist takes pictures and therefore needs to be alert for developments.  It is his job to know where to go, how quickly he has to go, when to see what to see and what to look for. His duty is, when he receives a spot news assignment, the first thing for him to do is to go to the scene at once.  He will learn from experience when and where to go.  For certain a type of photo stories, fire accidents and disasters of other kind, the scene of actions obviously, is the best source of news.  Here, time is very essential.

There is no point in going to the scene of accident long after the houses have been reduced to ashes or the bodies have been removed to the morgue.  It is important that the scene of the crime be visited quickly to get an accurate description at first hand of where the murder was committed, in order to have accurate photographs.

He should quickly know who his news sources are, and how to maintain cordial relations with them, every day.

The Photojournalist should at all times show respect for the dignity. privacy, rights and well-being of people encountered in the course of gathering and presenting the news.

The Photojournalist should have good imagination, and a basic mental faculty that will help in reporting and retaining the readers’ interest.

Self discipline and integrity helps the photojournalist to be dedicated and firmly committed towards his work.  He obeys the rules and regulations of the ethics of journalism.

The initiative of the photojournalist is important for him to work on the field and should have an outgoing nature and drive.

Such qualities would help him to get acquainted with news source and get pictures and stories from them.  A meek, tiring or shy person is not fit for reporting. Photojournalists need a fair amount of assertiveness and aggressiveness to be successful in their career.

A good photo-journalist must have the spirit of diligence towards his work.  His job requires painstaking exertion of internal care, effort and dedication to the task and watchfulness.

He needs to have patience and that makes him work long hours under very trying conditions everyday.

The Photo-journalist’s job is to tell a story with pictures and his goal is to convey the truth through the images he captures with his camera.

He often faces risk, injury to document newsworthy events.  His jobs expose him to despicable scenes that are often seared in his memory forever.

Through photographs, viewers are able to get a glimpse of what is going on in places they would never consider visiting or places they know nothing about.

In a nut shell, as the golden rule of journalism goes, “it is better not to say a thing or take a shot of a picture than to say it wrongly or take a picture wrongly for publication”.

Source: ghanaiantimes