The Digital Journalist
Common Cents:

December 2007

by Mark Loundy

"Physician, heal thyself."

Luke 4:23

Many of us started out shooting pictures for newspapers. Many freelancers raised families on revenue derived from newspaper assignments. But that's yesterday.

They're supposed to be on the frontlines of democracy, but newspapers cannot even save themselves. I don't see them having enough collective institutional energy or will to do anything except reduce costs as they circle the drain. In my neck of the woods, the once-great San Jose Mercury News grows slimmer and more diluted with each passing week. Its supremely talented and inventive visual staff is trying to expand into online video, but the print product is languishing.

The vast majority of newspaper ownership is now corporate. For-profit corporations exist solely to make money for their shareholders. Preservation of the First Amendment is for the wusses who drive last year's Mercedes. Maybe we can get something for those offset presses...

Certainly there are golden oases of journalistic enlightenment, but they are as rare as stories about man biting dog.

I'm beginning to think that journalism can only be conducted by non-profit organizations. Unless journalistic integrity can be monetized, profit eventually becomes an obstructive and then a destructive force. First you can't write about a big advertiser, then they're cutting staff to prop up sagging profits.

Perhaps the St. Petersburg Times (owned by the Poynter Institute) will be the last paper standing.

Storytellers have been valued since humanity gathered around Neolithic fires. It remains to be seen how that value will manifest itself as we gather around millions of interconnected electronic fires.


• Airports Council International, North America and their former publisher, PPS Publications, for their prompt, no fuss, no muss payment. Apparently they're also nice folks.


• Last month it was Arkansas, This month the Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association is claiming ownership of all images shot at its events.

• Corbis, for its "I am buried" photo contest. The all-rights-for-all-entries contest resembles a thinly veiled ploy to acquire a library of "workaholic" images on the cheap.

Northern Virginia Magazine for being another in a long line of publications using "interns" as unpaid labor.

• "Show us what it means to be an REI member." Apparently it means giving up all rights to the recreational equipment co-op for images submitted to be "featured in REI materials." Back in the day, we used to call this advertising.


• Conde "Nasty" earns its nickname yet again with the Golf Digest contract that not only demands all non-exclusive rights, but also forbids its contributors from submitting work to any other golf publication or licensing the work for commercial purposes. This one makes me want to take a bath just from reading it.

Zobe Magazine for a truly odd internship (unpaid again) agreement. If you look closely, you can see that they're trying to demand all rights and indemnification, but it seems to have been translated back and forth between ancient Sumerian and Esperanto and then back into English and then mixed randomly with a script from "Southpark."

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.


• After a tsunami of objections from industry groups, Getty Images has blinked in their battle to offer rights-managed images for Web use for just $49. They have reduced the term down to three months and continue in dialogue with a consortium led by the Stock Artists Alliance. It's a cage match for real.


Stock Artists Alliance Press Release

NPPA Independent Photographers Toolkit

Advertising Photographers of America Business Manual

Common Cents Column On The Cost of Doing Business

Editorial Photographers

Editorial Photographers Yahoo! Group (Message Archives)

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.