Reuters make us all (photo)journalists. Yahoo for Victoria Wood!

People have been bursting to write about the combined move by Yahoo and Reuters into allowing any and all of us to submit our pics (through flickr). If they sell them you’ll get a deal – if they don’t they might still show them on their own sites (free content).

There’s been mixed reaction to this – much of it along the lines of wailing at big corporations exploiting the little man. That of course is nonsense. You choose whether to send a pic their way. There’s also the death of the photo-journalist line – maybe true but missing the point – the value is in the image, not the person who gathered it.

Deep Jive (lovely clean site) has a much more mature approach in this post. To quote:

When your competition just grew by a many orders of magnitude, the lesser talented professionals will necessarily not make that cut, and be mercilessly dropped. Bad for them, but good for everyone else.

  • Its good for the content aggregators — they get to skim the best talent at a better price
  • Its good for the remaining professional journalists and photographers — they get a bigger share of a smaller pie
  • … and its good for the amateurs — who get a shot at getting noticed, when they otherwise wouldn’t; and get paid in some small way for their efforts.

He also goes on to mention Getty – which allows people to submit images to their archives and will pay if they ever get sold. This approach makes a huge amount of sense to me as long as the information which describes the when, where and who of the pictures is accurately recorded and stored. It reminds me a little of the Mass Observation Archive at Sussex University – which was collected in the 1930’s on the assumption that we don’t yet know what will be of value in the future. Victoria Wood has found out how valuable – she’s just written a wartime drama (ITV 1 December 10th) based on the archive. The power of such colelctions to tell and reveal stories must never be underestimated – the potency of a digital archive to allow us to unearth those tales is enormous.
Of course value can be random. Imagine someone in an earlier digital world taking a photo of a child with a gun at a birthday party. Properly tagged and stored it lurks unloved, until bang – the search goes out for old pics of someone called Lee Harvey Oswald and up pops a real money maker.

Real value of information is not just random though, it relies on it’s quality and integrity – which is essentially the point Thomas Hawk (great photos) makes here:

“…a news agency’s reputation is *everything*. This is a bold step on the part of Reuters. Even with experienced editors reviewing the images there certainly can be fraudulent photos submitted.”

Perhaps a start is to combine a number of technologies – place tagging for images (my phone was here when I took this) with social networks built into the Reuters submission site to allow people to establish some sense of personal integrity – a la LinkedIn?

Others on this include Richard Sambrook, photoblogs, new media musings.