Publisher's Letter by Dirck Halstead - The Digital Journalist
The Digital Journalist

The Digital Journalist

Letter from
the Publisher

Welcome to the June issue of the The Digital Journalist, the monthly online magazine for visual journalism.

Richard Avedon has arguably the greatest body of work of portraiture in the world. Although he is best known as a commercial photographer, whose famous images -- such as the picture of a nude Natasha Kinski with a snake -- have set standards in advertising, his personal passion has been distilling major elements of American history into portraits of people against a simple white seamless. Starting in 1987, he undertook one of his biggest projects, to picture the men and women of the western United States. He turned to photojournalist Laura Wilson to help him coordinate the massive project. Over the seven years that Laura and Avedon worked together, she chronicled the project with her own photographs. Late last year, University of Texas Press published her book, "Avedon at Work in The American West." It is an important look behind the scenes of a master photographer at work. We especially want to commend to your attention the streaming video interview with Laura.

Ziyah Gafic is only 23 years old. He is a Bosnian. For the past three years he has been photographing what war has done to his country. Not with a 35mm digital camera, but with medium format. He has recently continued his project on what war does to ordinary people to include Palestine and Iraq. His photographs are artistic and personal. It is a new direction in photojournalism.

The "blues" is a true American music, rooted in the experience of the African-American of the Deep South. The "blues" is more than just music; it is a reflection of a culture, a time in history and the story of the migration to the North. Sadly, this music form is fading from the place it was born, the Mississippi Delta. Many of the "blues men" who came from the Delta are no longer here to tell their story, of their music, their birthplace and the road they traveled. Platypus graduate Gail Mooney has spent the past few years documenting the living musicians, and we proudly present it as our "Platypus Theatre" feature in streaming video.

The greatest invasion in the history of the world, 60 years ago on the beaches of Normandy, " D-Day" was perhaps the most significant event in our history. Yet, astonishingly, few pictures survived of that event.

John Morris, who was in charge of Life magazine's coverage, recalls what happened on that historic day in "How Life Covered D-Day."

Dick Kraus was only 12 years old when the troops hit Omaha Beach, but it has been a subject which has haunted him for years. This month, he starts the first of a multi-series story on the veterans of that historic battle.


This month we received dispatches from three American originals: David Hume Kennerly, Damaso Reyes, and Dave Marash. All of them sent notes from war zones; each of them focused their vision on something other than gunfire.

We begin with an inside look at Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld's visit to Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq. Only one civilian still photographer was allowed on the trip. David Hume Kennerly tells the story.

If shoes could talk, they would speak of their slog through the "Dust Bin" in Rwanda on the feet of a freelancer. Damaso Reyes shares his perspective. Our kicker story reads like a legend. It's whimsical, intelligent, sentimental and smart. ABC News correspondent Dave Marash wrote it from a Baghdad oasis.

Halfway through 2004, we take a break from bang-bang, if only for a moment.

Our Webmaster, Gina Trapani, traveled to Ventura, California, to attend the Platypus Workshop. She is not a photographer, and she was worried. "Could I possibly produce a broadcast-worthy project?" The answer was she did. She writes about it in this issue.

Jim Colburn, who has supplied our popular humor column for the last seven years, is moving on -- to the "Central America" state of Nebraska. Don Winslow tells us about Jim's move, and what it means. And as he is packing up, Jim looks ahead to his trip.

Contributing Editor Peter Howe talks about the meaning of the Abu Ghraib photos, and Chick Harrity reviews the new Nikon D70 camera.

This month, we are inaugurating a new section, called "E-Bits." Austin photojournalist and author Beverly Spicer has been sending me what I call "the flotsam and jetsam" of the Web for the past few years. These are photos of signs, weird events, and movie clips that are funny, outrageous, and compelling. Life magazine used to have a section called "Parting Shots," and in that spirit, we start her new section. We think you will love it.

All this, including our regular columnists, Terry Heaton, Bill Pierce, Mark Loundy, and Jim Colburn on his way to Nebraska, plus Amy Jo Marash, aka Bowers.


You will have the opportunity to experience journalism from the viewpoints of six working news photographers who have contributed journals to the June issue of ASSIGNMENT SHEET.

Joe Jaszewski, a young photographer who recently joined the Idaho Statesman, discusses the physical challenges that he faced covering stories in his journal, IDAHO WINTER. Joe explains, "My experience of winters has been northern California-style: fog, rain, and temperatures that dare dip into the high-30's. That is, until I moved to Boise, Idaho, last summer."

"THEY'RE CALLING IT A REBUILD," writes Mark Neuling, who describes what it's like to learn that your company has been sold and the new owners are pulling the rug out from under much of the staff at Tech TV. Mark has some irons in the fire and we wish him luck, because we enjoy reading his accounts of life as a TV newspuke in ASSIGNMENT SHEET each month.

Nashville (TN) freelancer, Susan Adcock, tells her tale of adventure with humor in "NEW YORK FOR BEGINNERS." She was there to cover the Nashville Symphony at Carnegie Hall. Wait until you hear how she tried to soundproof her camera and then how she made friends with some NYC undercover narcs who tried to sell her some dope.

The vast majority of us work in small venues and rarely have an opportunity to cover major sports events. T.C. Baker, a staffer for the Victoria (TX) Advocate, is just such a person. You will be surprised at the quality of the sports photos from small-town games that he uses to illustrate his current journal, "TIME TO REFLECT."

Most of us have photographers whom we admire and try to emulate. Such is the case of freelance photographer Sean Cayton from Colorado. He describes how he discovered the works of his idol in a Colorado Springs bookstore as a student, in his journal, "ROY EMERSON STRYKER - An Uncommon Commitment to Photography in America."

We hope you enjoy this issue.


We have heard from many of our readers that they had difficulty viewing our first Platypus Theatre presentation by David Leeson, " Dust to Dust." This is something we are very concerned about, and we have talked to the experts about how we can make this work better. The simple fact is that we are dealing with emerging technology. Trying to present a 30-minute video intact is pushing the envelope.

There are things you can do to maximize your viewing experience:

1.) Make sure you have the latest version of QuickTime loaded. Older versions will not support this program. It is a simple, free download. Be sure to get the latest.

2.) A lot depends on your server. We are pushing out the videos on a very powerful Hewlett Packard server located at the University of Texas that has been optimized for streaming video. However, depending on your ISP, the time of day, or firewalls, you may have problems. Keep at it.

3.) New QuickTime software is intended to play the videos as streaming video, not "downloads." The difference is that downloading a 30-minute clip can take up to an hour. A streaming video will start playing within a minute with broadband.

4.) You must be on broadband to view these features. There is no way view them on dial-up unless you have a lot more patience than we do.

Please let us know if you have problems. Some of it we may be able to help you with.

We hope you enjoy this issue.

The Digital Journalist is a reader-sponsored site. We depend on pledges to be able to continue to bring you this magazine. If you find that this has become a valuable resource for you, please send in a pledge through our I-bill secure payment link.

Dirck Halstead
Editor and Publisher

Back to Contents Page