The Digital Journalist
Editorial: The 100th Issue (More or Less)
February 2006

According to the number on our contents page, this is our 100th issue of monthly publication of The Digital Journalist.

Actually, our Webmaster, Gina Trapani, researching this figure several weeks ago, came to the conclusion that in our early days a few issue numbers got mixed up, and that actually this would be our 98th issue. Fixing this would be a mess, because we would then have to go back to issues 99A, 99B, and 99C, which would totally confuse everyone. So, on the assumption that people like round numbers, we are proceeding to call this issue 100.

Whether it's issue 98 or 100, in the world of the Web, it is an incredible accomplishment.

During these past eight years, we have seen photojournalism and broadcasting taken apart and put back together in new configurations that we could not have imagined.

In the first months of our publication, we got a lot of letters asking why we called it "The Digital Journalist." In 1997 most photographs for publication were still being shot with film. Magazines would not touch digital unless there was no alternative. Virtually all TV news was being shot with Betacams, and was edited in linear edit suites. The first small "High 8" three-chip cameras were just being introduced, but few people in broadcast thought they, and this new kind of "video journalist" -- a hybrid of still photojournalist and would-be documentary filmmaker -- would have much impact on what was essentially a "closed" craft. In 1999, a weird phenomenon shook the film industry. Called "The Blair Witch Project," it was made by amateur filmmakers, using handheld video camcorders, for $30,000 and went on to rake in $80,000,000 at the box office.

Most of the photographs published in newspapers back then came from The Associated Press, Agence France-Presse, or Reuters. Little did these wire services dream that in a few short years, their dominance would be contested by what used to be magazine picture agencies that had been scooped up by multimillion-dollar corporations called Getty and Corbis, and that a whole new generation of boutique agencies, such as Redux, World Picture News, Zuma, and Polaris would start beaming their photographs instantly to markets around the world via the World Wide Web.

By the millennium there was no longer any doubt that the word digital was the common thread that united all of these new ways of taking and distributing images, whether still or motion.

Dallas Morning News photographer and Pulitzer Prize winner David Leeson recently remarked on 'The Platypus Park' discussion list, "Not only has digital spelled the death of … film, but video has spelled the death of how we will make images." In less than one year, High-Definition video has taken over the market, making immediately obsolete what were industry leader DV camcorders. The implications of this revolution will shake not only broadcasting, but also newspapers and film studios. Photojournalists who want to apply for a job as an intern at a newspaper will find themselves out of luck if they can't demonstrate that they can shoot video as well as stills, and that they know how to cut a piece on Final Cut Pro.

Almost all films that were placed in competition at this year's Sundance Festival were shot on digital video. Even the last bastion of Beta or film-only Acquisition, The Discovery Channel, is now accepting HDDV projects.

All of this means that the lid has blown off of what previously was a very closed industry. Virtual studios will challenge the Hollywood giants. The World Wide Web has already challenged the dominance of publishing as the way information is received. It is no accident that The New York Times recently removed its most popular columnists from its free Web site, and put them into a "pay per view" area called Times Select. At the 2005 Online News Association Conference in New York, Times publisher Arthur Sulzberger, Jr. announced that he looked forward to the day when the Web would provide the revenue to support the entire Times payroll.

The revenue models are beginning to catch up with the technology. As Goggle's stock price soars on Wall Street, there is a waiting list of months for advertisers who want to sign on to the Web site.

As Web sites such as Digital Railroad provide ways for individual photographers to instantly display their work to a worldwide market, transactualization methods that will provide pricing and payment models will not be far behind.

In our first anniversary issue in October of 1998, Marianne Fulton, who was then one of our first contributing editors and today is one of our senior editors, remarked, "Photography has changed, frequently, decade by decade, as technology changes, as people get smarter, and the world gets smaller, and that is just what is going to happen now; everything accelerates ... and that could be fabulous."