Letter from the Publisher

December 2009

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

We are now in the eighth year of what is the longest war the United States has ever fought. Yet to many it seems as though the conflict in Afghanistan is being fought on another planet, somewhere out in the vast universe. With a few notable exceptions, such as The New York Times and PBS, the photographs of this struggle are hardly seen in publications or on TV. Yet, rarely has a war provided such vivid images.

In this special issue of The Digital Journalist, we are going to try to correct that. Lucian Read and David Bathgate are two photojournalists who have returned to Afghanistan time and again to document the struggle. Both are remarkable photographers. As Time picture editor Michele Stephenson used to say about James Nachtwey, "he produces art in the middle of a battle." They are also doing their work with cutting-edge tools. In addition to his still photographs, Lucian Read is producing remarkable video with his Canon 5D Mark II for Dan Rather's HDNet channel. We include two of his videos taken under fire in this extraordinary package. Please comment on their work. Your words will mean a lot to these two brave men.

For our Dispatches, we have Lee Sinco's account on his work in the Philippines and Indonesia, Ryan Pyle on the demolition of the old city in Kashgar by the Chinese government, and Paula Bronstein looks at the effects of war wounds on Afghan women.

In both our first editorial and Ron Steinman's commentary, we discuss the phenomenon of the "citizen journalist" and the damage that is being done to professionals who are increasingly being shunted aside by the industry. Also, Ron contributes his review of the new book by one of journalism's legendary professionals, Harold Evans, former editor of The Times of London, once voted by British journalists as the greatest all-time editor.

Just as we were closing this issue, two rather amazing – and alarming – stories came across the Web. The first, from the Dallas Observer blog site, reported how A.H. Belo Corp. publications, including The Dallas Morning News, is enforcing a new policy that allows their sales staff to dictate content to the editorial sections of the paper, violating the most sacred wall between journalistic "church and state." And, in a new memo to its freelancers, Time Inc. has instituted a policy that would require a photographer to pay a commission back to the magazine in order to be paid in a timely fashion. We comment about both of these outrages in a second editorial called, "From Bad to Worse."

Very often changes in cameras come with unintended consequences. Canon's 5D Mark IV and 7D cameras have revolutionized the industry, delivering video of higher quality than even the most expensive professional video cameras. But we ask the question, "What is this doing to their other camera lines?"

Talking about cameras, Chick Harrity gives us a review of the new Nikon D3s, which he calls "a worthy upgrade to an already great camera."

E-Bits editor Beverly Spicer's column this month is "The News of Our Death is Greatly Exaggerated." She writes of a troubled industry reorganizing itself and presents examples of innovative newsgathering by Newsmap.jp and Zuma Press, Scott McKiernan's evolutionarily advanced photojournalism agency and related enterprises. Finally, she asks us not to forget why stories need to be told, and presents a rarely-seen documentary from World War II made by a British and American crew that included future filmmaking giant Alfred Hitchcock.

A decade ago Dick Kraus foresaw the direction that photojournalism was headed in. What he wrote then has unfortunately turned out to be prescient. We are re-running his column from 1999. Also, over the years I have often been asked where the term "the Platypus" ever came from. I solve the mystery in this issue.

Speaking of the Platypus, registration is now open on the home page for our 2010 workshops, which will be held in Las Vegas, Prague, Czech Republic and Maine. This year we will be teaching our video on the Canon 7D, becoming one of the only video and filmmaking workshops to move to the DSLR.

Have you ever wondered what it is like to attend a White House state dinner? Well, you are cordially invited to find out -- without crashing one -- in our first-hand account, "What It's Like To Be A Guest At A State Dinner."

In addition we have our usual fine columns from Bill Pierce, David Burnett, Mark Loundy, Chuck Westfall, Eileen Douglas and Terry Heaton in this huge year-end issue of TDJ.

An important final note … As you know, after more than 10 years, Canon has felt compelled to discontinue its support of The Digital Journalist. It is that support which has made it possible to produce these issues, and become one of the most trusted and vital resources to visual journalism. We are working very hard to come up with new sponsors (or who knows, Canon might change its mind?). We will also be going to several foundations, seeking institutional support. It is our intention and hope to keep publishing as long as we can. This month you, our loyal readers, donated nearly $5,000 in pledges, which is just enough to pay our staff, to whom we all owe a debt of gratitude. So please make pledges if you can. We know how difficult it is in the economy, but consider your pledge an investment not only in this magazine, but also in yourselves, and our beleaguered profession of photo/video journalism. Hopefully we will all make it through to the other side.

In the meantime, a sincere "thank you" to all of you who have made pledges and sent notes of support. They are deeply appreciated. See you on the Web, and God Bless.

Dirck Halstead
Editor and Publisher