The Digital Journalist
The Digital Journalist
September 2005

In September of 1997, we launched the first issue of The Digital Journalist. It was made possible by a generous gift of a powerful server provided by HP. In a week, working at MIT Press with some savvy Web designers, and the help of David Snider, who would become our first Webmaster, we created the first real online magazine for visual journalism.

After 8 years of continuous monthly publication, we are proud to have presented major features by hundreds of photographers, some of them legends in the industry, and others getting their first major exposure on our virtual pages. We pride ourselves as well on our ability to turn on a dime, tearing up an issue a week prior to publication in order to respond to major events, such as our coverage this month of Hurricane Katrina.

We are proud of our columnists, such as Bill Pierce, whose "Nuts & Bolts" has been with us since the first issue; Terry Heaton, our knowledgeable guru of TV in the postmodern world; Ron Steinman, whose provocative essays on television news have gathered international attention; Marianne Fulton, who took over "Dispatches" from Amy Bowers (Marash) and continues to reach out to photojournalists on the world's news fronts; Dick Kraus, who has also reached out to photographers on some of the smaller newspapers around the United States, to give them a voice as well; Jim Colburn, whose caustic columns have shed humor on a business that often takes itself a bit too seriously; Beverly Spicer gives us something new every time in the eclectic column “E-Bits,” that ranges from humorous to philosophical to intellectually stimulating, as she grabs the best clips and photos from cyberspace; Chuck Westfall, with his helpful Q&A "Tech Tips," and our thought-provoking "Ethics" team, Karen Slattery and Erik Ugland.

We are particularly proud to have aboard our invaluable Editor for Europe, Horst Faas, and Executive Editor Peter Howe, who, in addition to his pithy commentaries and articles, helps me to keep The Digital Journalist on track and on time.

One of the things that cheers us the most is the increasing numbers of feature submissions that are coming in from our viewers around the world. This month we are running a story about Chinese Street Opera that came in from one of our readers in Singapore.

Our Webmaster. Gina Trapani, does a masterful job each month putting together the issues, laying out the photographs, and compressing our streaming video presentations. Our copy editor, Cecilia White, handles over 30,000 words of text each month, and makes sure the spelling and syntax is correct, and also fact-checks the finished work.

So how do we do it?

The answer is: in all the names mentioned above, and with the financial support of our sponsors, Nikon, Canon, and HP. They make it possible to pay our staff, and provide our server, so that we can bring you these issues free of charge.

Our original concept was "What would Henry Luce have done if he had the World Wide Web available to him back in 1936 when he started LIFE magazine, with the mission to show us the world, and the people and events that made it up?" That is still our overarching mission. But we had another idea as well... that the most underestimated journalists in the world were the ones who carried cameras. We knew from experience that not only were they storytellers with images, but also were wonderful reporters, who if given a chance could find their voices, and present a fresh approach to media that seems a bit creaky and irrelevant in today's world of the Web.

When we started 8 years ago, broadband was still over the horizon. Yet, from our first issue we featured multimedia packages, most just in audio, and as the bandwidth opened up we moved with it, and started delivering streaming video, shot by the photographers who had gone through our Platypus Workshops to learn a new language of television news and documentary. We have watched as these pioneers started to create programming for such programs as ABC's "Nightline," then moved on to create new programming for newspaper Web sites. For a long time traditional broadcast was skeptical of these new video journalists, but as they persevered and multiplied, their influence in shaping new media became indisputable.

We are proud to have played a part in helping to carry the ideas of visual storytelling to a brave new world.