Welcome by Dirck Halstead- The Digital Journalist
The Digital Journalist

The Digital Journalist

Letter from
the Publisher

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

Every September, many of the photojournalists of the world converge in Perpignan, a medieval town in the south of France, for a week of exhibitions, meetings and the joy of each other's company. This year, "Visa Pour l'Image" becomes a partner with The Digital Journalist in presenting some of the photographs that have held the world mesmerized, if not spellbound, over the past 12 months. Visa's founder and director, Jean-François Leroy, has personally selected these photographs, which we feature in our cover story. Many of them you will have already seen in our pages, but others will be new to many of you. We think it is a marker for a tumultuous year.

It is now five years since terrorists flew two jetliners, fully loaded with fuel, into the twin towers of The World Trade Center in New York City. On the same day, two more planes went down, one into the Pentagon and another, brought down by courageous passengers, crashed into a field in Pennsylvania. But it was the attack on the towers, a symbol of America's economic might, that stood as the symbol of one of the world's darkest days.

Contributing Editor David Friend has just written a magnificent book, "Watching the World Change: The Stories Behind the Images of 9/11" that discusses how photography bore witness to that event. As Garrison Keillor writes in The New York Times Book Review, "A brief review can't do justice to 'Watching the World Change,' a lucid, thoughtful and wide-ranging book. In truth, Friend's excellent writing conveys more of the truth of the day than photographs can. The picture of the three firemen raising an American flag over the ruins, which became an icon of 9/11, is not nearly so gripping as the story he tells of the exploitation of the picture, the feelings of the photographer, Thomas Franklin, and the stoical refusal of the three firemen to be lionized." In this month's issue we run excerpts from the book, along with a review by Marianne Fulton.

We have also decided that after five years we would link back to our original 9/11 coverage from October and November of 2001. We encourage you to watch the streaming video interviews with the photographers who bore witness on that terrible day.

In September we present four “Dispatches”: The stories are from Thailand, Sri Lanka, Ethiopia, and the Ukraine. In Bangkok, Paula Bronstein entered the tabloid frenzy covering the arrest and extradition of alleged pedophile and murderer John Mark Karr (recently found to have invented his story about the death of JonBenet Ramsey). Norman Ng is in Sri Lanka covering the renewed hostilities between the Tamil Tigers and the Sri Lankan military; Ake Ericson shows us the faces of continuing hunger in Ethiopia and Michal Novotny delves into the abyss of homeless, glue-sniffing children in Odessa.

Jim Gabour contributes another of his compelling "Letters From New Orleans," and reports on the sad incident when a New Orleans photojournalist tried to commit "suicide by cop." It is a grim reminder of the crushing despair that still haunts that city's residents, a year after Hurricane Katrina.

In our cover story last month on the battle that raged between Israelis and the Hezbollah, we ran a photograph taken by Tyler Hicks of The New York Times that showed a young Lebanese rescue worker being pulled from debris. This photograph caused a storm of angry blogs from readers alleging that the photograph had been staged. As it turns out, and we immediately reported it in an Editor's Note, the rescuer had himself been injured after being photographed helping victims, and shown walking around the site in other photographs. However, the facts did not deter these would-be "picture police" from blogging inaccurate statements that grew from misunderstanding. The death of one of our great photographic legends, Joe Rosenthal, last month reminded us how his Pulitzer Prize-winning photograph of Marines raising the U.S. flag on Iwo Jima during World War II was also thought to have been staged. We devote our editorial to the story of these images, and hope it will slow down some bloggers from jumping to the wrong conclusions.

This month we are experimenting with our first blogs. Jim Colburn will be reporting daily this week from Perpignan with news and gossip.

Snakes in our psyche, bats in the belfry … in these crazy times, it's a blurred line indeed between fact and fantasy, as "E-Bits" Editor Beverly Spicer recently discovered. While watching the hit movie "Snakes on a Plane," she found the perfect metaphor for what is happening to our entire society. We are, she notes in her column this month, trapped in a global drama like passengers sealed inescapably in a capsule catapulting through time, with violent and sinister forces threatening us in the same way as hyped-up poisonous snakes on that "muthafuckin'" plane.

Ten more "Platypai" were graduated last month from our 12th Platypus Workshop. Among the students were photographers from The Associated Press, The Christian Science Monitor, The Sioux City Journal, and three photojournalists from El Diario De Hoy in El Salvador. In our Platypus Theatre we run the Best Edited film and the Most Improved student film, along with an introduction by our own Jim Colburn, who took the course for the first time. Our next Platypus Workshop will be held at Brooks Institute of Photography in Ventura, Calif., in March 2007. We also would like to belatedly congratulate Kimberley Acquaro, a former Time magazine picture department researcher who attended our New York Platypus Workshop in 2000. She was nominated for Best Short picture at this year's Academy Awards. She is now a filmmaker in New York.

Our regular columnists, Ron Steinman, Bill Pierce, Mark Loundy and Terry Heaton are all on board for this huge issue. Chuck Westfall is on vacation this month, but will be back with his "Tech Tips" next month.

September is here and with it, the specter of 9/11 drifts through our consciousness, reminding us of the horrible events that unfolded on that unforgettable day. Photographer Anthony Correia recalls September 11th in his "Assignment Sheet" journal, which graphically depicts his thoughts and deeds as he worked his way through what he describes as "a war zone."

The latest hot issue in the media business is the doctoring of news photographs and everyone has an opinion. Dick Kraus has one called "Ethics: A Commentary," and you can find it as well in this month's "Assignment Sheet." You may not agree with everything he has to say but he does welcome your comments.

On a final note, we are hearing that several professors of photojournalism at major universities are now making The Digital Journalist required reading in their classes. We would like to encourage this trend.

We hope you enjoy this issue.

Dirck Halstead
Editor and Publisher

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