The American press is on suicide watch as Frank Rich declared earlier this year. With the fold of major print media outlets, like Rocky Mountain News, and the Seattle P-I and the bankruptcy of the chain that owns the Los Angeles Times and the Chicago Tribune, it seems that the predictions of the EPIC 2014 slideshow are right and that Frank Rich is, too.
So why would a photojournalist say: “As long I as I am alive, newspapers will be, too”?
Yet this was the battlecry of photographer Michel du Cille, who I had the pleasure to hear speak last Saturday at the Bellingham Visual Journalism Conference. Du Cille is a three-time winner of the Pulitzer Prize (one for his work documenting crack cocaine addicts in Miami) and the assistant managing editor for the photography at The Washington Post. He gave a nice talk elucidating a bit of history for visual journalists and I am hoping he won’t mind that I re-present some of his thoughts here.
In 2004, Du Cille had 32 photographers working for him at The Washington Post. Today, The Post is down to 15. He got choked up about his colleagues who lost their jobs but also agreed with Rich that part of these wounds were self-inflicted. He seemed to say that journalists had a duty to cover the most important stories and work for the people (often in direct conflict with profit).
He explained that newspapers may not look and feel how they used to, but that they would exist. However, he gained 5 videojournalists, 5 multimedia editors, and some technicians. If anything, they are getting MORE visual. It’s just a different type of visual.
In the 1880s, the Washington Post began running a few images using woodcut drawings. In1880, the New York Daily Graphic published the first half tone photograph.
Then he showed this clip from 1981 on the future of news (which Frank Rich also referenced):
A friend and editor recently told me he couldn’t wait to get his New York Times on a newspaper-sized Kindle, which got me imagining one day owning a tablecloth that each morning uploaded the Times. I could eat and pull the articles toward me, iPhone style.
“The newspapers we love will prevail,” said Du Cille, which seemed part assurance, part self-reassurance.