Letter from the Publisher

May 2008

Welcome to the May issue of The Digital Journalist.

May is truly our Memorial Day issue. We celebrate the veterans of World War II, and pay tribute to four of the world's finest photojournalists who were killed in 1971 over Laos.

Jonathan Alpeyrie, a young French-American photographer, set out on an ambitious project several years ago. His self-assigned goal was to photograph and interview as many veterans of World War II as he could find. He wound up photographing veterans from 21 countries that fought on the side of the Allies, and nine who fought for the Axis. What he found was the commonality of his subjects. They all shared the same courage, fear and pride that characterized this “greatest generation." Peter Howe has written a must-read introduction to this magnificent work.

In early April, photographers and reporters who had covered another war, Vietnam, gathered at the Newseum in Washington, D.C., to pay their respects to four of their colleagues, Henri Huet of The Associated Press, Kent Potter of United Press International, Larry Burrows of Life and Keisaburo Shimamoto of Newsweek, who died in the crash of a helicopter over Laos in 1971. These were some of the greatest photographers that this war had produced. Their remains are now interred at the Newseum. We share the emotional ceremony with you, and urge you to watch the moving audio slide show of their work, produced by The Associated Press.

We are afraid that 2008 will go down as "The Year the Newspapers Died." Publications are in free fall due to dropping circulation and falling advertising. Unfortunately, one of the first places the publisher turns to in order to cut costs is the photo department. We estimate that this year, as many as one third of the membership of The National Press Photographers Association will be out of a job.

One of the growing number of victims of downsizing, David Bitton of The Gazette in Colorado Springs, Colo., shares with us his plea: "I Just Got Laid Off and I Need A Job."

Eileen Douglas, reporting on what has happened to a former star journalist – now persona non grata in the industry – asks the troubling question, "What does the journalist who can't do journalism anymore do?"

One of the things that may keep photographers employed is the switch to video on newspaper Web sites. However, confusion reigns as newspapers try to figure out how to perform a skill that isn't in their handbook. We address this issue in our editorial, "How Not to Shoot Newspaper Video."

"All the news that's fit to … outsource"? It's not impossible. Rumors have struggling CBS News in talks with CNN to get at least some of its news from an outside source other than from its own bureaus. Our Ron Steinman explains in his article "-30-" – an elegy to the dying business of TV news in general, and troubled CBS News in particular.

Our prolific Ron Steinman also writes in "Light Speed" that "speed, once a blessing, is now a curse." Today, he observes, the Internet, as radio once did, has within it the power to change lives and peoples' destinies – but at a cost.

Each April, Las Vegas puts on one of its biggest conventions for the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB). This year 111,000 people attended the convention and trade show. It's where manufacturers show off all their new products, from cameras to helicopters. Normally no "news" breaks out at these get-togethers, but this year actor Tim Robbins, in an opening keynote address, blasted the broadcasters for much of the current unease the public has with media. He set a tone that was much different from previous years. We also report on many of the new goodies that we saw in the four massive halls at NAB.

Chick Harrity is back this month in our "Camera Corner" with a review of HP's new "little brother" printer, the Photosmart Pro B8850. Chick finds that it does its "big brother," the B9180, proud.

In "Ethics," Karen Slattery and Mark Doremus explore what visual storytellers need in order to "shoot with your heart": empathy.

E-Bits editor Beverly Spicer writes of the passing of theoretical physicist John Wheeler, the scientist who coined the term 'black hole.' Wheeler was a relentless searcher for truth. She thinks the media has drifted perilously close to a black hole of its own, inspiring NAB keynote speaker Tim Robbins' call to broadcasters to rededicate themselves to the same passionate search that Wheeler exhibited in his singular career in science. If you haven't seen Howard Beale being mad as hell in the film "Network" in a while, you can see him again in E-Bits, delivering his eerily prescient rant about a fictitious media run amuck from over 30 years ago.

This month in Dispatches Chip Somodevilla looks at American Catholics and their welcome of Pope Benedict XVI, Andrew McConnell reports on the continuing calamity in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Stewart Cook brings us face to face with the Canadian seal hunt.

Newspaper photographers don't spend every working hour chasing breaking news. There's plenty of soft news out there and we often find ourselves devoting a lot of time and energy to that and features, as Dick Kraus explains in his Assignment Sheet feature called "Studio Assignments."

Our regular columnists, Bill Pierce, Mark Loundy, Terry Heaton and Chuck Westfall add more spice to this huge issue.

We hope you enjoy this issue, and please pass on the word not only to your friends, but also to your editors and publishers. They will probably grumble, but eventually be grateful. We all have to try to save the field we love.

Dirck Halstead
Editor and Publisher