Letter from the Publisher

August 2008

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

Suddenly something we have taken for granted, low prices for gasoline, has become an issue of vital concern to consumers around the world. Oil-producing countries have yielded record profits. However, sometimes the benefits do not trickle down to the infrastructure or the citizens of these countries. Nigeria is one of the saddest examples in the world. Much of its populace live in abject poverty, the air fouled by gaseous clouds of burning oil, its food sources poisoned. Photojournalist Ed Kashi has spent over four years making multiple trips to Nigeria to document the devastating effects of oil production on the land and its people. PowerHouse has recently published his book, Curse of the Black Gold: 50 Years of Oil in the Niger Delta. We proudly present his photographs in this month's cover feature, with an 18-minute interview with Ed and his wife, filmmaker Julie Winokur.

Walter Iooss Jr. is regarded as one of the finest sports photographers of our time. His new book, Athlete,published by Sports Illustrated, presents portraits of the top figures in sports. We feel that it is a compelling body of work that deserves to be seen as the world celebrates the Summer Olympic Games in Beijing.

This month Beverly Spicer reviews two books, America at Home and UK at Home, created by Rick Smolan and Jennifer Erwitt. Both books offer an innovative design process that has been used only once before in the industry. Buyers can upload the image of their choice to illustrate their own custom-designed wrap-around cover.

Executive Editor Ron Steinman presents an essay about Charlee Brodsky, a professor of photography at Carnegie Mellon University whose poignant book, I Thought I Could Fly: Portraits of Anguish, Compulsion, and Despair, explores the juxtaposition and interdependency of photos and words.

This month we offer four Dispatches and one Update. David McNew reports on California's tenacious wildfires and their ever-larger devastation. David Bathgate is back in Afghanistan, this time deployed with "Charlie Company" at Jugroom Fort, once a stronghold for Taliban and al-Qaida fighters. Will Baxter reports on the dangerous situation in Zimbabwe after the sham one-candidate election of Robert Mugabe on March 29. Philip Poupin investigates the growing problem of gold mining in Brazil's Amazon Basin, which is leading to the irreversible destruction of its rainforests. And finally, in this month's "Update," Rafael Ben-Ari covers Barack Obama's recent visit to Israel.

In "Perfect Days," E-Bits Editor Beverly Spicer writes about cultural change and the difference between newsprint and online news, and new vulnerabilities to censorship, deletions, memory holes. She talks about the Main Core database and reminiscences about a science fiction book from the '70s called "This Perfect Day." She suggests as life imitates art, that it is also imitating science fiction.

Assignment Sheet has two stories for August. The first, by Eileen Douglas, is called "Cheatin' Heart." Eileen ponders the (hopefully rare) cheating reporter who got caught getting someone else to write his newspaper pieces for him. Dick Kraus, continuing his thread about "In the Presence of Greatness," finds that greatness can be found right under your nose in your own newsroom.

In his commentary "Local Rules, or Should," Ron Steinman writes that "all news should be local if survival is the future of newspapers," and predicts that newspapers and TV news can still survive, but only if they determine what the news business is – and isn't.

Our regular columnists Bill Pierce, Mark Loundy and Terry Heaton as usual offer provocative columns and Chuck Westfall answers your technical questions. And in Ethics, Karen Slattery and Mark Doremus observe that responsible journalism is "No Small Matter" to a community.

We will be holding our last domestic Platypus Workshop for 2008 in Chicago from Oct. 17 to 26. We still have some shoot 'n' edit spots and producer spots left, but we suggest you register as soon as possible. This will be our 33rd workshop since we started them. It has changed the lives of nearly everyone who has attended them.

We hope you enjoy this issue.

Dirck Halstead
Editor and Publisher