It was once an essential component of the media that helped millions to be able to visualize the world from a distance in news reports and features. Often the photos that were brought to us by photojournalists with expensive cameras were more important than the words that accompanied them. Today, it is becoming as much a form of art as it is a delivery system for the news thanks in large part to the rise of smartphones.
Nearly every event that involves humans is “covered” by smartphones. Through social media, the images associated with activities are available within seconds of them occurring, broadcast publicly and available for news organizations to use in their coverage. Sending a photojournalist to the scene is less important than finding the live shots taken by normal citizens armed with a camera-ready mobile device.
Quality has taken a hit as a result, but even that is changing rapidly due to advancements to software and equipment. To the naked eye on a standard computer, it’s often hard to tell the difference between something shot on an iPhone and the same shot done with a high-end journalist’s camera. Late last year, CNN laid off 12 of its full-time photojournalists due in part to the rise of iReport, a platform where people in the right place at the right time with a smartphone and an internet connection can be the eyes of journalism.
This phenomenon can be seen more vividly around the world in areas where journalists are scorned or even forbidden. There was once a time when tyrannical activities could be hidden from the rest of the world by simply keeping the journalists out. Today, there are “journalists” everywhere and it isn’t very easy to tell the difference between someone making a phone call and someone snapping a shot or two with the smartphone camera that can make it to Twitter and be broadcast around the world.
The last moments of Muammar Gaddafi’s life came not from an intrepid photojournalist or a reporter in the midst of the chaos but from those who were with the dictator as he was beaten, tortured, and killed.
In the graphic below, Frugal Dad examines this shift in our culture, the consequences surrounding it, and the positive benefits that come with having the eyes of the world potentially hiding in anyone’s pocket.