"A decade of budget cutting, downsizing, foreign bureau closings, assignment drought, and agency takeovers are coming home to roost. The aftermath of the terrorist strikes has exposed America's shallow knowledge and understanding of today's complex world in which we live. The media abdicated its responsibility to inform the public with insightful reportage, in-depth enterprise journalism, and hard news. Instead, they fed us softball lifestyle features that would "sell." We were entertained instead of educated. Luce, Sarnoff, and Paley did not abdicate their responsibilities to report the news to the American public while bringing healthy profits to the bottom line. Will today's media barons step up to their responsibilities?"

So wrote former Time magazine Picture Editor Arnold Drapkin in an email sent to us just days after the terrorist attacks on New York and Washington. We could not agree more.

Since the late '80s, we have watched - appalled - as American media moved away from hard news and investigative journalism, to entertainment and life-style issues. At the top, the big newsmagazines, the life-blood
of photojournalism, decided that the public no longer cared about any substantive information coming from the rest of the world.

In 1987, Drapkin was told by the top editors at Time, "Arnold, you have built the finest stable of photographers any magazine has ever had, now you have to take it apart." And take it apart they did. With a few exceptions, it was no longer possible for photojournalists to depend upon editorial assignments to make a living.

The networks began by cutting foreign travel budgets for correspondents and crews. Then continued the downward course by closing their overseas bureaus.

Only upstart CNN seemed to think there was any value or viewer interest in what went on outside U.S. borders. As ABC Nightline Executive Producer Tom Bettag lamented, "It's not that the American public is not interested in foreign news, it1s the bean-counters who aren't interested." Similarly, the "news hole" in American newspapers began to shrink when it came to foreign news, with the notable exception of papers such as the New York Times and The Washington Post.

At the beginning of the new millennium, one of Time magazine's picture editors told us, "The days of the old photojournalism are over, and they are never coming back!"

In one day - September 11, 2001 - photojournalism was, in a sense, reborn. The horrendous act committed on that day accomplished what none of the dedicated and loyal photographers had been able to during the past decade. A period filled with fighting, not only for the rights to own their pictures, but the very survival of their craft.

Photojournalists rushed to the scenes in New York and Washington. Most did not wait to be called. They responded, like the police, the firemen, the EMS crews. They were driven to document this tragic moment in our history.

At least two photojournalists were killed. Others were injured. Most worked for long hours in choking smoke, and heart-wrenching misery. The photographs resulting from their efforts are superb. It was for all as though a pent- up desire to do their best had been released. Miraculously, the magazines, newspapers, and networks - almost as one - shook off the years of malaise that had so enfeebled them, and welcomed the work as it began to flood into their offices.

When the publications hit the newsstands they sold out in minutes. Americans were glued to their TV sets - not to watch the latest survival show, but to see real people confronted by real-life, extraordinary circumstances. It will be a while before "reality" programming can resonate with viewfinders that have looked into the physical consequences of hate. For the near future, fewer will look for the stars and glamour that have graced covers and filled the airwaves.

Hollywood is in a state of paralysis while studio moguls try to figure out the public's taste in this new world. For too long, it has been about fads, glitter, and "edgy" photography. The idea of journalistic expertise and credibility being considered "old" and "boring" no longer applies.

We as a nation, will confront many new challenges. Our media can be an enormous force for good if it is not squandered on inanity.

Resources must be spent. Editors must be freed from their impotent state. Photojournalism must be respected and supported for the value it represents - both in our society and in our history.

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