Social Media’s impact on Photojournalism

by sn2s

Photojournalism is an important part of news. Social media has allowed photojournalism to bypass the many gatekeepers who decide what news is.

Photojournalism has always been of ethical concern. Images of crying, starving, burning and dead people have enraged people around the world. Internet penetration and increasing availability adds to the speed that photos can be viewed.

Social media provides a new recent platform of entry for aspiring photojournalists. PJs can post directly online and build their own following. Interested news sites can use the pictures in stories. If the PJ seeks a reward, they can watermark images and sell high-resolution photos privately. If PJs prefer to release full works for free for the sake of the message, they can crowd fund their efforts.

With social media, we know that anyone in the world can become a citizen journalist and start blogging. The same applies to photos, and often citizen journalism includes amateur photography. Some argue that social media turns ordinary users into photojournalists, but I know people with ‘training’ who would disagree.

The famous twitter photo of the plane in the Hudson River in 2009 was taken by an ordinary person. The picture was circulated around the web. Likewise, amateur photos and videos of 9/11 and the Boston marathon bombing made it online.

Nicole Bogart from Global News ( says that professional photojournalism is on the decline while citizen photography increased. She sees a restructuring of news organizations to accommodate the changing landscapes. A Montreal crowd funded start-up,, seeks to bring citizen photography into the mainstream by searching for, finding and sending requests to people in an area.

This raises concerns about quality of the photography and accuracy of the story. In class, we talked about the issues with news organizations getting the story fast, but not necessarily accurate. I think that these concerns are valid, but that citizen journalism isn’t the only place for blame.

Is it better to have a single story on a distant conflict? Or hundreds of photos from different sources with comparable stories? I think it’s better to have many stories competing for truth in the marketplace of ideas than the singular story that passes through a gatekeeper on a corporate dime.

I think social media provides the megaphone for important unheard voices ignored by modern infotainment news for too long. Social media will continue to play an important role is destroying and rebuilding what we consider news. It is decentralized and threatens the very foundations of news corporations. We are only seeing the beginnings of the impact it will have on national and global news flow.

Phlearn has created a helpful article for photographers on which social media tools to use, and how to use them.