Letter from the Publisher

December 2008

Welcome to the December issue of The Digital Journalist.

As we were closing this issue of The Digital Journalist, I was attending the Atlanta Photojournalism Seminar. This annual event is considered one of the most important gatherings of photojournalists in the United States. Among the roughly 500 attendees, there were many students, some of whom, like the ones from Ohio University and Western Kentucky University, had driven for hundreds of miles to learn from the best. It was appropriate that the master class was presented by Bill Eppridge, the legendary former Life photographer whose book, "A Time It Was," about Bobby Kennedy's ill-fated campaign for the presidency in 1968, was the cover feature this year in our June issue [http://digitaljournalist.org/issue0806/eppridge-intro.html]. In addition to his work on the Kennedy campaign, Bill showed his photo essay, "Panic in Needle Park," which appeared as a 28-page essay in the old Life. It was the story of a young couple living on the Upper West Side of New York City who had become heroin addicts. The feature was so strong that it became the basis of a Hollywood movie, and brought home the point that anyone could become a drug addict. It brought the specter of drug abuse into the homes of white, affluent families that thought they were immune. It was a reminder of the power of a photo essay, done by a committed photographer who is ready to take on social issues.

David Eliot Cohen, who along with Rick Smolan created the "Day in the Life" and the "America 24/7" book series, understands and respects this kind of power. This fall he published an important book, "What Matters." It contains 18 searing photo essays by this generation's greatest photographers who have committed themselves to documenting the key issues that will affect our lives in the months and years ahead. When asked why he decided to produce this book, Cohen said, "I created this book because I believe in my heart that one great photograph can change the world. And if I can show 250 great photographs about the crucial issues of our time to enough people, then maybe one of those people, or maybe a few people, or, maybe even many of those people will connect with an image. And when one great image resonates with one talented and dedicated person, and that person digs deeper, learns more and takes some action that creates positive change in the world, then "What Matters" can be considered a useful exercise. I can't predict who that person will be or which of the 250 images in "What Matters" will resonate, or what action that person will take, but I completely believe it will happen." We are proud to present selections from this book.

Last year, Contributing Photographer Peter Turnley decided to move from his midtown New York apartment to one in Harlem. He wanted to be closer to what he felt was a vital part of Manhattan. After photographing Barack Obama campaigning in Ohio, he decided to photograph his neighbors in Harlem as they reacted to Obama's historical victory. It was an emotional experience for Turnley, who has photographed conflicts, famine, and disease from the far-flung corners of the world, to see the joy unraveling in front of him. He shares that joy with us in his original photo essay, "The Content of Our Character."

At the Atlanta seminar, there was much discussion of the economy. There was an underlying current of fear among the students and the presenters that our lives are on the verge of changing in ways we have never experienced in our lifetimes. In the past week alone over 2,000 newsroom jobs have been lost. There was discussion of the Great Depression of the 1930s, and how a new generation of photojournalists would confront it. In her new book, "Daring To Look," Anne Whiston Spirn presents recently unearthed documents that were written by legendary FSA photographer Dorothea Lange in the 1930s, as she chronicled the Great Depression across America. It may help to provide an insight into how photojournalists responded and created a historic legacy of tough times. Contributing Editor J.B. Colson writes about the importance of these discoveries.

On December 1, another grim anniversary was noted. World AIDS Day reminds us that across Africa, more than 12 million children have been orphaned by this terrible plague. Executive Editor Ron Steinman writes about photographer Kristen Ashburn, who has documented the Russian penal system and the aftermath of the tsunami in Sri Lanka, and her just-published photo book of the AIDS pandemic in Southern Africa, "I Am Because We Are."

In Dispatches this month, we have reports from photographers Sean Gallagher in Mongolia, Justin Mott in Vietnam, Tarik Tinazay from a U.S. military hospital in Germany, and a report by The AP's Jerome Delay about his search to reunite a family torn asunder by continuing violence in the Congo.

'Tis the season for holiday parties, and no one knew how to throw better – or wilder – parties than the press corps during the Vietnam War. Saigon veteran and party animal Ron Steinman recalls those raucous "The Light at the End of the Tunnel Parties" in his commentary.

E-Bits Editor Beverly Spicer suggests that unlike the pre-Depression era promise of a chicken in every pot, the legacy of the last eight years is the certainty of a fox for every henhouse. She presents a comprehensive list of photographers' rights in the U.S., UK, and Australia.

Black Star photographer Dennis Brack reports on a new museum in Toronto that will become a new home for the legendary picture agency's photo collection.

Joshua Wolfe, an enterprising young photographer profiled in last month's issue [http://digitaljournalist.org/issue0811/bucking-the-trend.html], offers helpful advice to fellow young shooters on how to build a career despite these economically grim times.

Our regular columnists, Bill Pierce, Terry Heaton, Chuck Westfall and Mark Loundy, all have special contributions to make up our year-end bagful of gifts to you all.

Assignment Sheet has two journals for December. The first, by Eileen Douglas, is called "On Deadline." As we head into a new year and resolutions are to be made, Eileen looks back at the year just ending at a lesson to be kept in mind from the sudden newsroom loss of Tim Russert. Dick Kraus, in his "Through a Lens Dimly" journal called "I Salute the Passing Parade," recalls his own career and the loss of friends and associates.

Dick Kraus also offers an anguished commentary for the future of photographers at Newsday, the newspaper at which he worked for 42 years, as well as for working news photographers everywhere. Newsday just announced that it would be letting its entire – yes, entire – photo staff go, as well as some editors, sports columnists and others.

A reminder: Our 2009 Platypus Workshops are now open for registration. Our first workshop of the year will be in New Orleans in early February. This marks our return to the Crescent City. We loved it last year, because there were so many great stories to shoot. If you want to sign up, do not delay. These workshops fill up fast. We are also offering a special student rate this year. Check out the Platypus banner atop our contents page.

Those of us here wish you all a happy holiday season and our best wishes for a happy New Year. We will be there for you.

Dirck Halstead
Editor and Publisher