With Changing Technology, Putting the Fear Aside and Moving Forward

By Katelyn Umholtz

The visual journalism industry is taking hits as staff sizes are shrinking. Those who are left are taking on more jobs including many tasks that you can blame on the internet.

But there are some people that are embracing the change.

“The technology has bolstered up what I can do, and it's exciting,” said Molly Corfman, a photojournalist at The News-Messenger out of Fremont, Ohio.

Even though Corfman is the only visual journalist on staff, requiring her to do many more tasks than just taking pictures, she said technology has made her job easier. For instance, when she first started her photojournalism career in the ‘90s, the film camera she used required much more of her time to get the pictures developed before deadline.

Jeffrey Allred of the Deseret News in Salt Lake City has seen half of his co-workers cut back during the Great Recession. With that came more responsibilities for those remaining.

“We were doing the same thing, but we were busier,” Allred said. “We were trying to get stuff out on the web quicker, too. Along comes tweeting, social media and multimedia. We were basically doing the same jobs, but with several other components added to what we had already done in the past.”

He didn’t let the doom and gloom of the industry get to him. Instead, he got on Twitter, learned new software and did his job.

“Learning the technical side of digital photography and the quicker ways to get your workflow going faster and different programs and softwares has probably been the most difficult [skill to learn],” Allred said. “But it's gone really well for me.”

And saying goodbye to film, though he misses it, was just as easy for him as it was for Corfman.

Matthew Apgar, a photojournalist at the Northwest Herald in Crystal Lake, Illinois, took his first photojournalism job right before social media really took off. But he was ready for it.

“You have to be out there on social media, promote your work on social media and make sure the audience you're trying to get is seeing what you're posting,” Apgar said. “If you're posting great work, but nobody is seeing it, it's almost pointless.”

Social media and video are both tasks Apgar has had to learn on the job since he started a career in photojournalism. He has taken on other jobs, too, outside of the office. In his spare time, he does wedding photography and some work for local businesses.

During the Great Recession, he especially noticed the wedding documentary photography business taking off, and photojournalists were filling those jobs.

“A lot of folks have taken it on as a weekend venture,” Apgar said. “They get more wedding clients and can get something out of it where newspapers are lacking, which would be payment.”

Allred has always been a freelancer on the side of his editorial work, but he has noticed more and more of his visual journalist friends becoming freelancers instead of looking for editorial jobs.

“A lot of them are losing their jobs, and there aren't as many staff positions,” Allred said. “This forces them into freelance.”

Just as Allred believes technology is helping newspapers deliver news better, freelancers can use this same technology to deliver better services to their customers. In general, Allred said this improved technology in his industry has made him a better photojournalist.

“I'm able to capture better images and get them quickly to the web, which is really our future in photojournalism,” Allred said. “It's nice to have the past, but I really like the future.”