Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Astronaut, Rock Star, Photojournalist... Choosing My Career

By Quinton Chambers

We can all recall that time when we were little and someone looked down at us, with an overbearing interest and an attentive ear, and asked the question: “What do you want to be when you get older?” Answers followed with:  firefighter, astronaut, rock star, or nurse; I usually replied saying a dentist or a race car driver. Although, depending on what life throws at you, between the time you're free to imagine and when you have to actually take action, those aspirations may change, leaving oneself to assess their skills and decide what profession fits best.    

That moment in life came to me when it was time to select a major in college. No more did I want to be a dentist, because I acquired too much of a sweet tooth; and a race car driver unfortunately did not fit in my hand of cards, though I am still a racer at heart. So I’m left looking in the mirror at a kid who is an avid creative writer, who thinks critically and has a knack for photography; naturally, I chose Communication Arts as my major. Within that major, the future profession of photojournalism became most appealing, but in today's world (full of rogue social media reporters and broadcasted ISIS vermin beheading journalists), I find myself asking: “Am I heading down the right path, is photojournalism a dying profession?”

The primary job of a photojournalist is to be a visual storyteller. Rarely in an office and most of the time freelancing, they are sent out into the fray to document everything from foreign affairs, to concerts, to protest. Photojournalists must be adequate with today's technology and up-to-date with today's standards. Working conditions vary, including unusual working conditions, unstructured hours, and being on-call 24/7 (meaning they must be ready whenever the story breaks). According to, the median annual salary is $35,369, with $63,747 being the highest annual salary they list.

With the rise of technology, social networks, and faster ways of communicating, it is no surprise that newspapers and printed media are in decline. According to The Bureau of Labor Statistics, that will cut photographers' jobs by 30 percent between 2010 and 2020. The Bureau also reports that in the realm of news analysts, there will be a 13% decline in job outlook between 2012 and 2020. Photojournalists are both a photographer and news analyst, so these statistics sound like bad news for the profession. Although these statistics only symbolizes a period of change within the profession. Currently, the majority of news is being consumed on computers, and on-the-go with smartphones and tablets, creating a new avenue for journalists to adapt to.

New journalists, on the contrary, are the ones making the profession a bit “foggy.” Don’t get me wrong, newcomers to any profession should be a benefit, but in Journalism where trust, reliability, and accuracy are a must, these new “rogue journalists” are mostly interfering. Social media has allowed anybody, anywhere, at anytime to post something (with no real limit on what can be said) that may become viral, or even become news. But is it really news? Is a random fight on a bus between two people news? Should these “rogue journalists” be credible sources? Sure, their perspectives could add a little spice to a news story, but as long as their ideas are not completely radical and/or biased.

Nothing ever stays the same. People, animals, and plants have adapted through the years; and in this time of fast technology and quick response, photojournalists will simply have to adapt. To answer my question from the beginning, “No” I do not think that photojournalism is a dying profession; it's only in a period of change, like a caterpillar in its cocoon. Sure, printed media is dying, but that now allows the professional pictures that accompany a news story to be shown on compatible HD screens. But what about those sketchy “rogue journalists?” Aren’t they slowly taking away from this profession? Yes and No. Yes, they are crowding up the news realm and sometimes influencing big stories; yet, the credibility and reliability of real news will hold up over time, showing the difference in quality between the two.

Photojournalist are the brave go-getters, who travel where the majority may not roam. They sustain long rigorous hours, in order to bring an immersive story to the audience. And with that story they provide thought- provoking and timeless pictures, that sometimes speak without a caption under them.

Photojournalism will always be present as long as people demand to know what’s going on in the world; and I’m excited to age with the profession and see it evolve for the best.       

Quinton Chambers is a  Communication Arts student at St. Thomas Aquinas College. 

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