Don’t call a welder to fix the toilet

When I have plumbing problems at home, I do what most sane people do. I call a plumber. And you know what, he does a really good job. Why? Because that’s his specialty. He has years of experience. He’s an expert. I don’t call a welder, and I suspect you don’t either.

Don't call a welder to fix your plumbing. Photo by Seth Anderson.

Please do not ask welder in back about plumbing. He does not know anything about plumbing. Photo by Seth Anderson.

So, why is the newspaper industry calling on journalists to do photography and videography? Journalists are writers. Writing is their true love. It’s in their blood. Writing takes time. Good writing takes even more time.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying journalists can’t be good photographers. Some are really good at it. But, it stands to reason that if you dump all that work onto the journalists, both the writing and the photos are going to suffer. If you call the welder to fix your toilet, there’s a good chance he won’t do the best job. Sure, he might be able to get it fixed, but it’ll take him longer and the work won’t be of the same quality. Take a look at virtually all of the small-town newspapers that don’t have a photo department and compare them to the bigger newspapers that do, and you’ll see the difference is very noticeable.

Newspapers are struggling to remain relevant in the digital age, and they’re trying everything they can to keep their ships afloat. With subscriptions dwindling and revenues dropping, it’s understandable that they need to lower their expenses. But, that shouldn’t mean putting out a lower quality product. They must find other ways to adapt.

Maybe this trend bugs me because I’m a photographer. Maybe other people don’t care. But I think it’s an insult to the writer and the photographer to do what they’re doing now. It’s a disservice to the communities they serve. For decades the newsrooms have known, without a shadow of a doubt, the impact a great photo has on the front page of a paper. They’ve known the impact of a well-written story. If the age of specialization is over, the age of low-quality product is upon us.

To follow the same line of reasoning, why don’t they just fire all the editors and let the journalists do the editing? Although, with that example the quality of journalism might actually go up.

The newspapers are in a hell of a quandary, and seemingly nobody knows what’s going to save them. One thing’s for sure, hiring a welder to fix the toilet ain’t going to do it.

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