The trend began in 2008 — 10 years ago — when Nikon introduced the first DSLR camera that combined video capability with still photography. Since then the powerful combo has accelerated, now with news organizations reorganizing their staffs to employ “visual journalists” that do both.
Now, to save money, Reuters has joined the visual journalist club by merging the makers of news still images and video into a single job. Barron’s reported that the accelerated changes follow last month's spin-off of a majority stake in Thomson Reuters financial and risk business, now controlled by private equity investors and rebranded Refinitiv.
Reuters remains part of Thomson Reuters but is being reorganized as a stand-alone business. Its largest client is Refinitiv, which has agreed to pay Reuters at least $325 million a year for news coverage over the next 30 years.
“In Visuals, we will accelerate the moves already underway to create a single unified team of visual journalists,” John Pullman, Reuter’s global head of visuals, wrote to the staff.
“Many of our photographers already shoot video — and videographers produce pictures. This mode of working is becoming normal throughout the industry as video and photo technologies grow closer. We will be taking a structured approach to merge our pictures and video teams. We will look at technology, training and workflow — and introduce single leadership where appropriate.
The whole process will unfold over the coming months, Pullman told the Reuters staff. “We remain fully committed to producing pictures and video of the highest standard,” he said.
Of course, the Reuters move was triggered to save money, not increase quality. And not everyone agreed with Pullman, who did not acknowledge the key differences between video and still photography.
“This is essentially the end of Reuters Pictures, going down the tubes in a very sad way,” an unidentified Reuters news pictures staff member told Barrons. “Pix has won a score of Pulitzers and other prestigious awards under Reuters but it seems that is not enough to save it from what appears to be the terrible end of what was a great run over more than 30 years which brought the world some of the best photojournalism it has ever seen.”
This story is sadly being repeated all over the news business, as the technology between video and still images is being scrambled. Today, some of the best video news reporting is being attributed to traditional newspapers, as these new organizations move into what was the turf of broadcast stations.
Some Pulitzer Prize winning photographers are now learning video in order to gain the new skills needed in the post moving image world. Even news photographers outside of the news business are learning and beginning video companies to compete in the new arena. The times are changing fast.
There will always be a major difference between video and still photography. Some of the world’s great stories have been captured on single frame of film. In the future, the difference will come in the skill of the individual image maker, who must determine which medium is best to tell the story. This is a very advanced skill set of both technology and story skill that will be ever harder to acquire.
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