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By Brian Storm

September 1st, 2002 - Last month I left my position as director of multimedia for 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 focus.

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.

Brian Storm

Related Stories:
March 2002 - Made for the Medium: Photojournalism at by Brian Storm.
July 2002 - From MSNBC to NYC, a Gathering Storm: Brian Storm on, 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 ( 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

From June 1995 through August 2002 Storm was Director of Multimedia at, 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

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