The Digital Journalist
Common Cents
January 2004

by Mark Loundy

Whether 'tis nobler in the mind to suffer
The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune,
Or to take arms against a sea of trouble...
Hamlet, Act III, Scene 1

It's January, a time for endings and for beginnings. In a world where intellectual property has become the "oil" of our times, it's time for the National Press Photographers Association to re-examine its mission. The critical need is for a strong, unified voice that speaks relentlessly and forcefully in support of the economic issues that affect all editorial photographers.

Such a voice would not come cheaply. It would require professional marketing and governmental lobbying. It would require the collective commitment of journalism educators to a curriculum that includes business management skills.

If the NPPA were to become that voice, it would also require a fundamental change in the nature of the organization. The changes would be profound even revolutionary. Not only would the bylaws need to be changed, but the leadership of the NPPA would have to "Come to Jesus" on economic issues.

Changes and additions

II-B OR NOT II-B? The Mission Statement and Article II Sections A and B would be rewritten to change the group's priorities and to allow the NPPA to address specific situations where photographers are being economically abused.

The NPPA would hire a marketing professional and establish a budget line sufficient to engage the services of a DC lobbying firm.

An oversight committee of volunteers would work with the marketing person to establish strategy and direction.

What wouldn't change

The incredible educational programs currently offered by the NPPA would continue. There is no reason to rob Peter to pay a lobbyist.

The price

Who would pay for this? We all would. Dues would rise $20 to hire an advocate who could shepherd the message, establish partnerships with other professional groups and raise funds to pay for media production and placement and to provide a minimal budget. The funds would also be dedicated to the advocate's budget.

The priorities of the NPPA must change if there are to be any photojournalists left who need First Amendment lobbying, story inspiration or ethics education. The stakes are too high to allow the alphabet soup of professional organizations to separately bumble their way through these issues. Somebody must step up as a leader to organize a united front. Why not the NPPA?

Next column, I'll talk about how to make this all happen. Perhaps in a few months, we'll see the seedlings of hope pushing their way into the light of a cool spring morning.

The Ugly: The Daily Californian at the University of California at Berkeley for imposing a Work For Hire contract on its student contributors. Educational institutions have a special responsibility to encourage good business practices, including retention of copyright and to condemn the unilateral imposition of WFH contracts.

Reuters for its new contract with WFH and indemnification clauses.

(The Good and The Bad are taking this month off for space reasons in the print version.)

Please let me know of any particularly good, bad or ugly dealings that you have had with clients recently. I will use the client's name, but I won't use your name if you don't want me to. Anonymous submissions will not be considered. Please include contact information for yourself and for the client.

Leftovers:

Last month I mentioned that there might be an audio version of New York attorney Ed Greenberg's "The War On Photographers" panel. An edited transcription of the session is being prepared at press time and should be available online by the time you read this. Check this site for an update.

Connections:

The Daily Californian

Suggested Changes to the NPPA's Structure and Mission

NPPA Bylaws

NPPA Independent Photographers Toolkit

Advertising Photographers of America Resource page

Common Cents Column On The Cost of Doing Business

Editorial Photographers Cost of Doing Business Calculator

Editorial Photographers Yahoo! Group

Small Business Administration

NPPA Online Discussion Group Instructions

© Mark Loundy

Mark Loundy is a visual journalist, writer and media consultant based in San Jose, California.