REIsearch NEWS

12/02/2019

Photojournalism in the Age of New Media

An elderly woman kisses a riot soldier in the streets of Cairo. A building collapses in Tokyo. Bloodied bodies and dismembered limbs fill an infirmary in Benghazi. The images come to us through Twitter and Tumblr and Facebook, captured through mobile phones or Web-ready digital cameras. Far from the grit of revolutionary unrest or the tumult of a natural disaster, average people sit, transfixed. This story is a familiar one. As new media tools and social networks have become more widely utilized, the powerful images of the world's crises are delivered directly to the laptops and smartphones of people around the globe. Since Iranian citizens filled the streets of Tehran in 2009 in defiance of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's regime, social media has allowed even the least tech-savvy people around the world to become bystanders to history. According to The Atlantic, while new media's value as an organizational tool during global crises has been much debated since the Iranian election protests in 2009, its role in the process of narrative storytelling is palpable. In places like Libya where journalists are outlawed -- or disaster zones like post-quake Haiti where regular means of communication are interrupted --  the linkages of social networks can be turned into a means of observing (or, in the case of a tech-savvy dictatorship, surveilling) the origins of political unrest or the makings of a world historical moment. But new media also comes with challenges for photojournalists: while a single snapshot may tell a thousand-word story, the trick is to get that story right. Since the camera phone has essentially turned any casual observor into a potential photojournalist, an extra pair of eyeballs in Libya could eventually become a temporary appendage of a larger news collecting organization. Lyon provides the example of Alaguri, a Benghazi resident who become the AP's sole set of eyes in Libya in mid-February as Western journalists were just entering the country. "We found a guy in Benghazi in Libya who had posted some pictures onto the Internet," Lyon said. "We tracked him down through his Facebook account. We made contact, had a conversation, asked relevant questions, ascertained that he was who he said he was, got permissions for his photos and retained him for a couple days of work. Because of that, we were able to have an exclusive look into the vents in Benghazi last weekend when there was no other imagery coming out of Libya. Our customers were using that. It was a great journalistic scoop on the strength of good, virtual, shoeleather reporting and verification."

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