Since our spring issue, several events have drawn my attention to a phenomenon that has been intensifying dramatically for the last five years or so: the news media's tendency to sensationalize stories. Whether it be the downfall of a celebrity, a senseless shooting, or a natural disaster, all segments of the news industry seem to be embracing these stories with zeal.
We are living in the age of the big story, and each new story seems to get bigger than the last. Witness the Oklahoma City bombing, the O.J. Simpson murder trials, Princess Diana's passing, President Clinton's sexual transgressions and subsequent impeachment, the war in Kosovo, the Columbine shootings, JFK Jr.'s passing, and the aftermath of Hurricane Floyd. The subjects are put under a microscope while the public lives vicariously through the misfortunes of other.
This appetite for sensational news has increased the demand for dramatic news photos. Armies of photographers now are dispatched to the big story in hopes of getting the definitive photo. One might think this would suggest growing job security for photojournalists, but the picture is not so clear.
This demand is coming in an atmosphere where day rates are stagnating or declining and employers are demanding more and more rights to images. In-depth assignments, which were common years ago, have almost disappeared in favor of the big-story photo op.
Newspaper jobs are becoming scarcer as the Internet opens new channels for distribution of news photos that, at least for now, offer modest compensation. Even as many photographers are being forced onto the freelance market, they are finding that to be truly competitive, they must buy new equipment and retrain themselves for the digital age.
The result is that some of the most talented photographers are struggling to make ends meet. But many more, determined to share their vision of the world with us, are finding new paths through the marketplace minefield brought on by the digital revolution. They are who this issue of PhotoMedia is all about.
We salute photojournalists and their commitment to bringing you the news in pictures. Our cover stories, featuring some of the leading personalities in the business, highlight the challenges they face on a daily basis.
Many thanks to our profile subject, Ed Kashi; to Janet Reeves and the photo staff of the Denver Rocky Mountain News; to Brian Storm at MSNBC; and to all of those interviewed in "The Web Never Blinks," for their unique perspectives. A special thanks also to my longtime friend J.P. Pappis, and the staff at Corbis Sygma, for their cooperation in providing photos for the Columbine story.
I am also pleased to report that PhotoMedia was honored with an Award of Excellence for publication design from the Apex '99 Awards for Publication Excellence. We appreciate this recognition and will continue striving to improve the magazine with every issue. If you enjoy PhotoMedia, we hope you'll write to us, and also mention us to our advertisers. Their support makes this publication possible, and they want to know you're noticing.
With this issue, I welcome John Callan as editor of PhotoMedia. It is a pleasure to have him on board; his passion for journalism and photography, along with his publishing experience and talent, will be evident as you read through the issue. It is one that we're particularly proud of.
As we exit the 20th century, may you have happy holidays and a smooth transition to Y2K. And wherever you are when the clock strikes midnight, don't forget to capture it on film or digital media!
Gary Halpern, Publisher