By Brian Storm
September 1st, 2002
- Last month I left my position as director of multimedia for MSNBC.com
and the comfort of the Redmond campus for the rough and tumble of New
York City to become the vice president of news and editorial photography
at Corbis. My role at MSNBC was to lead our efforts in creating and
packaging audio, photography and video on a site with a reach of 50
million unique users a month. As you might expect, I'm receiving plenty
of email asking, "Dude, why would you leave MSNBC?"
Some perceive Corbis as a big corporation that doesn't understand photojournalism.
After spending two weeks meeting the key players at the Seattle headquarters
and last week with the team in New York I can tell you that's absolutely
not the case. Of course, perception is reality and we have to work hard
to change the perception of Corbis. The only way to do this is with
tenacious execution of a plan that is focused on preserving the integrity
of our profession and creating financial rewards for all partners.
My journey over the last 7 years at MSNBC taught me many things, but
one of the most important lessons was that great things can happen when
the right group of people with a shared vision team up with the resources
of a big organization that empowers and fosters individual creativity.
I have plenty of experience dealing with the "big corporation"
emotional concerns from the photography world since it's exactly how
most people perceived MSNBC in the early days. Those who worked with
the MSNBC multimedia team or spent much time on the site can see the
commitment and passion for visual journalism. Day-after-day, we turned
the profession on to the role that powerful photography needs to play
in the evolution of news and information in new media. I expect to do
the same, one person at a time, with Corbis.
Corbis has the opportunity to make a significant and positive difference
in the history of photojournalism - right when times are hardest, when
changes are happening rapidly, when we need passion, integrity, innovation
and leadership at one of the big shapers of our industry. I want to
be an agent of positive change for photography and Corbis offers a compelling
palette to create new solutions that will move our industry forward.
I've tried to address the areas of our profession that I feel need the
most attention, the areas holding the craft back from reaching its full
potential. In 1995 I was attracted to the idea of leveraging technology
to publish comprehensive reports to a large audience. Now, I'm challenged
to addressed the business side of photojournalism and establish a model
that can provide a financial base for the continued evolution of visual
storytelling. We need to find ways to build on our successes and keep
experienced photojournalists involved in moving our profession forward.
The turnover cycle that we continuously experience with photojournalists
who can no longer finance their craft with pure passion alone is a viscous
cycle that saps the institutional knowledge of our profession.
Corbis must continue to create an environment that executes on the business
side of photography fairly and empowers photographers to focus on their
creative pursuits. That's the trick really... utilize the people power,
the business infrastructure, the mass distribution and technology capabilities
of the corporation and the nimbleness, creativity and passion of the
photojournalist to create a mutually beneficially relationship. I'd
say making this happen, serving both the integrity of the profession
and the responsibilities of the business, is my top goal.
The photojournalism landscape is changing with rapid advancements in
technology, industry consolidation, new contracts and changing relationships.
Unfortunately, there is a crisis of trust in our industry exacerbated
by a lack of clarity between photographers and agencies, and between
photographers themselves. Ironically, considering our trade is based
on journalistic truth, it's rumors, conspiracies and misinformation
that are all too often favored over facts discussed in an open, direct
and honest manner. This benefits nobody and sets an adversarial relationship
at the exact time when we should be trying to understand each other
and work together.
No effort at Corbis or similar company will mean much without the dedication
and participation of photographers who need to actively engage with
their agency to talk about both successes and failures related to their
work. Photojournalists must be part of the discussion to create solutions
that can reinvent photojournalism. A healthy dialog between photographer
and representative based on honesty and a mutual desire to do best by
each other is the only way to reverse the trust and clarity issue that
holds us back so significantly. It's a two way street, and each side
needs to step up.
In all the industry's challenges is where I see opportunity. As a profession,
we've felt the pain of technological advances, but have yet to reap
the rewards and efficiencies these advancements can create. At MSNBC,
we used technology to our advantage in both our production processes
and in showcasing a story so I know these benefits are possible and
how to put them in place. In my new position at Corbis I see a critical
opportunity to play a part in making these changes. I do not say this
lightly. I did my homework. I checked out Corbis thoroughly before making
my decision to join the company. There will be hurdles, and changes
will need to be made, but that's my job and I'll be working with a dedicated
team worldwide. I'm convinced that, just as we were able to guide Microsoft
and NBC to a positive position in the evolution of visual journalism,
we can do the same with Corbis in the digital media landscape.
As I begin at Corbis, I ask nothing less than excellence from the people
I work with and who work for me. Accountability and a true commitment
to the practice, spirit and business of photojournalism are the principles
I demand from my team. The unwavering culture of photojournalism is
the cornerstone upon which we will leverage Corbis' expertise and technological
assets to address the challenges in photojournalism today. Big does
not have to mean bad as long as "global distribution" is backed
up with solid people, fair policies, effective web sites and a steadfast
commitment to photojournalism.
The first thing we need to do is maximize the images and relationships
we already represent to create a steady, reliable and effective engine
for distributing pictures to clients and for serving our photographers
all over the world. Corbis web sites, marketing muscle, client relationships
and photographer services need to be the gold standard of our industry.
We need to focus on building the foundation so that we have springboard
for our future innovation. While serving traditional markets seamlessly,
we also need to think creatively about where news and editorial photography
can be licensed given technological advances and emerging markets. It's
critical that we gather, edit and package the best images and use innovative
distribution techniques to license across editorial, commercial, fine
art and other traditional markets. Corbis has the global reach and technology
expertise to create these types of crossover sales seamlessly.
Corbis can also help revitalize long-form, high-end journalism. Technological
advances and new business models have forced the industry to focus too
much on fast, surface coverage to make a quick buck, but few are investing
in the story behind the story. My journalistic goal has always been
to gather and package a more complete story and work to inform a larger
audience. I believe there's going to be a backlash against surface coverage
and a real demand for the in-depth essays that will stand the test of
time once those products are available in new and innovative formats.
Today's news coverage is tomorrow's archive and those who approach current
events with a comprehensive eye will reap future benefits. This long-term
approach will require patience to allow the vision to evolve and Corbis
is committed to this course.
To reach this goal, Corbis needs to employ and partner with the best
in the business. We have to work with the most passionate and dedicated
photojournalists, deploy state-of-the-art technologies and provide a
fair contract in our working relationships. We need to connect the dots
with the ideas and needs of the clients at publications around the world
with the craft and skills of our talented photojournalists. We need
to create a home for seasoned photojournalists to interact with up-and-coming
talent and continue to push their skill set while honing our editorial
When I look back on my experiences I want to know that I had a role
in changing photojournalism for the better in a time of trouble, and
more importantly that the craft and business of photography is as healthy
as it has ever been. I want to know that photojournalists can make a
good living while telling the stories that educate the world. I want
to know the gap in trust has been closed, and I want to be proud that
photographers, agencies and clients accomplished this together.
These are the measures of success I am striving for as I begin at Corbis.
I believe they are all possible, and I think they should be measures
we all work toward no matter what our path in our chosen profession.
We have every opportunity to do this right, and we are only bound by
our imaginations. These are some ambitious goals to be sure. I know
they can be reached though. They have to, there is so much at stake
and I look forward to being a part of it all.
March 2002 - Made
for the Medium: Photojournalism at MSNBC.com by Brian Storm.
July 2002 - From
MSNBC to NYC, a Gathering Storm: Brian Storm on MSNBC.com, Photojournalism,
and a new job by Kenny Irby of the Poynter Institute.
Brian Storm is a passionate leader in the fields of photojournalism and new
media. Storm has focused on the craft of visual storytelling as a
photojournalist, an innovative picture editor, a technological pioneer and a
champion of emerging and fair business practices.
From August 2002 through November 2004 Storm was Vice President of News,
Multimedia & Assignment Services for Corbis, a digital media agency owned by
Bill Gates. Based in New York, Storm was responsible for Corbis' global
strategy for the production of news, sports and entertainment photography as
well as the packaging and distribution of Corbis' industry leading
historical collection. Storm led Corbis' efforts in the representation of
world class photographers for assignment work (http://corbis.com/assignment)
with a focus on creating in-depth multimedia products. Storm directed the
operation of Corbis' production tools and web site for current event and
feature packages at http://corbis.com/news.
From June 1995 through August 2002 Storm was Director of Multimedia at
MSNBC.com, a joint venture of Microsoft and NBC News based in Redmond, WA
where he was responsible for the audio, photography and video elements of
the site. Storm created The Week in Pictures and
Picture Stories to showcase visual
journalism in new media.
Storm received his master's degree in photojournalism in 1995 from the
University of Missouri where he ran the School of Journalism's New Media
Lab, taught Electronic Photojournalism and produced CD-ROMs for the Pictures
of the Year competition and the Missouri Photo Workshop.
Storm has presented ideas about the impact of new technology on journalism
at dozens of universities and conferences around the world including the
NPPA's Flying Short Course, The Atlanta Photojournalism Seminar, Poynter
Institute's Visual Edge, The International Center of Photography, The Eddie
Adams Workshop, Visa pour l'Image and The Stan Kalish Picture Editing
Workshop. Storm is the chairperson of the NPPA's Telecommunications
committee and also serves on the Business Practices committee.
Brian Storm can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.