On Feb. 26, members of The Torch editorial board attended the Associated Collegiate Press annual national convention at the Sheraton Universal Studios Hollywood. Hundreds of students from all over the country spent four days attending specialist sessions, critiques, workshops, keynote addresses and more. With as many as six or seven sessions to choose from in any given hour, the event offered learning in diverse subjects, a broad range of speakers and valuable insights into the profession
Never before have I attended such an event as the Associated Collegiate Press convention. It was a new experience in many ways.
From Francine Orr of the Los Angeles Times, I learned about dignity and photojournalism. From Gerard Burkhart of the Press Photographers of Greater Los Angeles, I learned how to photograph brush fires and that fire can kill you, in many ways apparently.
From Frank LoMonte of the Student Press Law Center, I learned ways to avoid getting shot or going to jail when photographing something. The most important lesson I learned from LoMonte, though, was that anywhere I wouldn’t drop my pants would be considered public space and thus acceptable to photograph.
Two messages stood out at the convention. The first is that in our current climate and times, journalism’s future is uncertain. Newspapers, which were once the primary means by which the public received news, are in decline and struggling to stay afloat. Internet and social media sites are quickly changing the ways people receive news. More and more, journalists specializing in one area are being called on to wear many other hats.
Journalism has devolved from its heights of power when journalists, Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein, were able to expose the Watergate Scandal or when reporting on the Vietnam War showed the public the truth of the war or when Walter Cronkite was seen as the most trusted man in America. That’s something you won’t find today.
Many might point to these as reasons why the profession is dying. The picture isn’t all bleak though.
We can learn from great journalists. We can adapt the ways in which we inform the public, probably more effectively than ever before. People’s trust in the media is not forever gone. We have the choice of regaining public trust or losing it. I for one will be choosing the former.
The loudest message wins
The second message that stood out at the ACP convention is how important journalism is. Many speakers encouraged attendees not to abandon it. The difference between successful and unsuccessful journalists, according to Orr is not giving up.
This message was by far the louder. Keynote speaker and Vice President of Content for KPCC Radio Melanie Still said that the world needs journalism and journalism needs us.
Even though journalism is struggling, the goal will always remain the same. Orr said that the photojournalist’s job is to tell a person’s story. This can be applied to all types of journalism.
Walking along the Universal City Walk as part of a session titled “Humans of L.A.” I was able to do this. I spoke with people and photographed them in order tell their stories.
Among the people I met, John Cirola told me of his 27 year involvement in the Big Brothers Big Sisters program and how helping troubled youths makes him a better person.
Koemen Doze told me of the brothers he made in Vietnam and how they will remain his brothers for all of time. He explained how such an experience makes you cherish and respect life and makes you seek to become a better human being.
To tell a person’s story, to capture their suffering in a photo and to help others become aware of their plight is true journalism. By telling a story we are able to give power to the forgotten and the voiceless.
Journalism has changed and will continue to change. However, as long as there are journalists telling people’s stories authentically, it will never die. I believe there will always be those who are willing to carry the torch and continue the work of journalism. I am willing to do this and in the words of John Lennon, “I’m not the only one.”