Dodged a bullet last week. The National Press Photographers Association, after much debate, decided not to change its name to The Society of Visual Journalists.
As a long-time member of NPPA, I’m glad I don’t have to start referring to myself as a "visual journalist." In fact, I don’t even care that much for the term "journalist." A journalist, legendary Chicago newsman Finley Peter Dunne once said, is "an unemployed newspaperman."
Among photographers in the news biz, a loud and sometimes contentious debate rages over just what to call ourselves. Some prefer "photojournalist." Others like "story tellers." Still others just refer to themselves as "shooters."
But "visual journalist?" I don’t think so. In the end, all of us who work for the news profession — whether we produce content for newspapers, magazines, the web, radio or television — are journalists. We use different tools to produce our content but, in the end, we work towards the same goal: to inform our readers. As both a photographer and a writer, I use words, photos and video to tell stories. Each is a tool.
Elmer Broz, my city editor at The Alton Telegraph in Illinois back in the early 70s, used to tell me to write a story that "explodes a picture in the reader’s mind." To Elmer, even an ink-stained wretch with a typewriter could be a "visual journalist."