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

The Digital Journalist

Letter from
the Publisher

Welcome to the January 2005 issue of The Digital Journalist.

The Digital Journalist tries its best to stay on top of breaking news events. When 9/11 happened, we moved to New York for a month and, with the help of American Photo magazine, produced two award-winning Web sites that looked at those tragic events through the eyes and lenses of the photographers who had covered them.

When word came after Christmas of the Tsunami in Southeast Asia, we knew in the first 24 hours that this would be an unprecedented disaster in the terms of loss of life and property. Unlike 9/11, it happened on the other side of the world, and it took time for journalists to get into place to cover the event. During the past two weeks we have been calling on our friends at the wires and agencies to get first-person reports of what it was like to cover this event. I think you will agree that our correspondents, contacted by our Dispatches Editor, Amy Marash, have done their best. Considering the incredible work load and emotional baggage they are carrying, they have done heroic work in giving us a glimpse through the eye of the photographer of what it was like to cover this disaster, which is still claiming victims as we publish this issue.

Our scheduled cover story for this month was to be a two-part look at China today. It is a subject that has great resonance with me. I covered the 1972 visit to China by President Nixon that opened the "Middle Kingdom," and recount that adventure as part of our "War Stories and Legends" series.

Mark Leong and James Whitlow Delano have both just published two new books on China. They are similar, yet very different in visual approach. Marcel Saba, the director of Redux Pictures, through whom both photographers found publishers for their books, looks at how they have interpreted a land that is becoming a leader in the world economy, yet still has a strong tie to its past.

Our Ron Steinman begins a two-part essay in this issue, "Twenty-One Minutes," about what the stakes are in television news, now that Tom Brokaw has departed NBC, Dan Rather has announced he will be leaving CBS, and the next shoe to drop is Peter Jennings at ABC. What does this mean for the future of television network news?

Executive Editor Peter Howe discusses how photographers will increasingly have to take charge of their own careers. He suggests the days that photographers could count on editors or agents to keep them busy are long past.

Roger Richards does a frank Q&A with photographer Ernesto Bazan in his "View From the Photo Desk" column.

Our Videosmith, Steve Smith, reviews the new Sony 1080i, HDR-FX1 High Definition camcorder, and explains why this camera may have a revolutionary effect on the market and video journalism.

Jim Colburn and Terry Heaton are back with their regular columns this month. And the icing on the cake this month is "E-Bits" Editor Beverly Spicer's thought-provoking look at the impact of mass communication in light of the tragedy of late-December's tsunami in the Indian Ocean.

Over the past few years, Bill Pierce, who does our monthly "Nuts & Bolts" column, has written to us as he moved from New York to California. He had to buy a new car, just to transport his dogs. This is something that dog lovers will understand immediately. His Weimaraner, Dave, became the subject of innumerable test shoots, which have appeared in his reviews here. We regret to tell you that Dave has passed on to that happy kennel in the sky, and Bill has a few words to say about him.

From Dick Kraus, editor of "Assignment Sheet":

Happy New Year to everyone from the photographers who contribute their stories to "Assignment Sheet." We start the new year with an offering from TV shooter Mark Neuling, who takes umbrage with the way his colleagues from the newspaper and magazine side feel about the video folks. Reacting to a comment from a still photographer at a photography seminar, Neuling opines, "I wanted to turn around and smack the arrogant miscreant. Why the prejudice against television, and specifically TV photographers?" No matter what side of the camera platform you're on, I'm certain that you will have an opinion as well after you read Neuling's journal, "Second-Class Citizen."

Dick Kraus, having retired after a lifetime as a staffer at Newsday (Long Island, N.Y.), shares his memories of a colorful past as he begins a monthly series in his "Through A Lens Dimly" offerings. These journals will depict the Damon Runyonesque characters that staffed newspapers in the '60s and '70s. The first one is titled "Smiley."

From Amy Marash, editor of Dispatches:

No one, it seems, was ready. Not the children, not their parents and grandparents, not the journalists. Even those who've seen death in quantity were not prepared to see how suddenly it overtook so many. "Unthinkable, horrific," said one. "...just could not believe my eyes. I have never seen anything like this before," emailed another.

Newer members of the news profession who worked the tsunami story had to overcome their inexperience. Photojournalists with plenty of experience said the logistical problems of travel time and transmission gremlins doubled the difficulties of covering a story so intense and far-flung. "Everything was slow, and there was no time to sleep."

How to communicate a reality that even the UN Secretary General admitted is hard to understand? "You wonder where are the people? What has happened to them?" asked Kofi Annan.

When you discover what happened, how do you shoot this awful thing, if the "thing" is a person?

Bearing the burden of witness this month were Mitchell Prothero in Colombo, Sri Lanka, and Jean Chung in Thailand for World Pictures News, Elizabeth Dalziel and Gemunu Amarasinghe in Sri Lanka for the Associated Press, Paula Bronstein in Thailand for Getty Images, and Tengku Bahar, who was on temporary duty in Malaysia for Agence France-Presse the day the tidal wave overtook his part of the world.

There are no words to describe it, but somehow they did.

ALSO this month, Michael Kamber and Spencer Platt put the new year in perspective, while Janis Pipars filed from the front line of the Ukraine's "Orange Revolution" in Kiev a dispatch that you will either love or hate, depending on your personal outlook on assertive photographers in a media scrum.

Our contributors this month went the extra quarter inch (I doubt there was a mile left in anybody) to bring you their stories, and their agencies supported them by assisting us at the Digital Journalist, to bring you voices of the Fourth Estate. They deserve our attention and our thanks

For those who are moved and touched by the photographs of the Tsunami disaster, may we suggest they give generously to The American Red Cross.

We hope you enjoy this issue.

Dirck Halstead
Editor and Publisher

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