The Digital Journalist
Common Cents
February 2005

by Mark Loundy

"Every artist dips his brush in his own soul, and paints his own nature into his pictures."
—Henry Ward Beecher

I used to think I was a photojournalist. I didn't just work at photojournalism; news photography was wrapped around my very soul. It was the essence of my being. Ink flowed through my veins. I was a torchbearer for democracy.

Common CentsI would pursue this holy calling for free. Money was part of somebody else's life.

Media owners are sucking the economic life out of an entire generation of like-minded photojournalists. They depend on the single-minded passion of freelancers to pursue their profession at any cost -- even the cost of their own economic survival.

As A.J. Leibling pointed out in 1961, "The function of the press in society is to inform, but its role in society is to make money."

No longer are newspapers owned by families who support the industry in the name of informing their communities. Large corporations now run most newspapers as cash cows in the name of shareholder equity. In fact, corporate media executives are required by law to act in "the fiduciary interest" of their shareholders. Journalism only happens as an incidental byproduct of profit.

My personal answer to this was to redefine myself. First, I let go of photojournalism as a holy calling. My soul and essence are those of a father and husband. I am a torchbearer for my family.

I am still extraordinarily passionate about my profession. I realized that my cameras were not surgically implanted. I was free to choose my storytelling tools. As a visual journalist, I am not limited to still photos. I could exploit today's market with video, Quicktime VR and audio in various combinations. As a modern committed storyteller, I can combine images, video and words in ways that would have been impossible just a few years ago. I've freed myself from the tyranny of ink-on-paperphilia. I don't have to see my work in a newspaper to be professionally fulfilled.

The moral of the story: Don't let yourself be tied down to one client, one medium or one technology. The more you learn, the more you master, the more marketable you will be.

Marketability will set you free.

The Good

None this month.

The Bad

None this month.

The Ugly

CanWest Global, publisher of Canadian newspapers including The National Post, Vancouver Sun, Ottawa Citizen, Edmonton Journal, Calgary Herald for their, "all-rights, you can't relicense your own work, you indemnify us, we don't indemnify you," freelancer agreement.

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.


Editorial Photographers is now charging for access to its discussion forums. At $50 a year, it's a bargain for access to some of the best information resources around.

EP provides an enormously valuable service to independent photographers. As one wag on the (free) board put it: "If the little bit they ask for being a member is going to make or break anyone here, then they have a serious problem that EP won't solve anyway."


Mark Loundy's study on newspaper readership trends

The Digital Journalist

The Platypus Papers

Platypus Park Yahoo Group

Virtual Reality Photography

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.