I went to school for many years to learn how to be a journalist. From the age of about 15 on up to when I graduated college I learned not just about writing, but interviewing, editing, designing and more. Outside of classes I interned for local newspapers and even worked as an editor at a small paper in a tourist trap town 90 miles south of where I lived to get experience.
My bookshelf is still filled with textbooks on journalistic ethics, newspaper design (which is something I spent innumerable hours learning), the news media’s impact on foreign policy (which is what my senior focus was on), the monopoly of the media and more. I even have a 15-year-old copy of the Associated Press Style Guide – the book that detailed how all news articles should be written and styled which I was regularly tested on for memory.
Today, you merely need to be online to claim to be a journalist. That simple. No training, no school required – just the access to post online.
Shifting gears, is there a profession in the world that has been devalued as much as that of the professional photographer?
Even though I entered into photography at the front end of the digital revolution I still learned the principles of photography using film. I was taught about which film types you choose depending on the looks you wanted to achieve, how to shoot, what to shoot, how to light, how to meter the light, and yes, how to develop the film and print my own images in the darkroom.
Even when I was already working as a professional photographer – I still decided to work under another commercial photographer assisting him to learn more about the craft. I constantly (and still to this day) attend seminars, read books, watch video tutorials and peruse magazine articles to continue learning as much as I can about what I do.
Yet despite all that, myself and other professional photographers are losing work to people using a smartphone or some two-bit amateur who simply owns a camera and is willing to work at a fraction of the cost, or sometimes even for free.
It has gotten so egregiously foul that someone recently requested that I pay them to work for them; that is not an exaggeration as awful as it seems.
As a society we are constantly developing ways to lower the bar so that everyone can step over. We have apps and programs to give the impression to others that we are better looking, do better work or have more talent. We pay to have illegitimate followers on social media, we merely copy what we see others are doing instead of coming up with something original and we have become dangerously obsessed with the illusion of success rather than the doing of hard work to earn success.
This is a very damaging developing in our world. When did the illusion of success actually trump the real work it takes to earn success?
Now this does not apply to the hard working, up and coming individual who is trying to race to the top. No, this is about all of those comfortable drowning at the bottom. This is about the talentless photographer stealing work by not charging so they simply can see half naked women. This is about the self-obsessed model who has never actually worked but has massed or purchased an Instagram following to appear famous. This is about the graphic designer who charges a premium to their clients and then outsources all the work for pennies on the dollar overseas, reaping all the profits without doing any of the work. This is about the author who sells a book that they had someone else write for them, despite the littering of mistakes. This is about the Hugh Hefner wannabe who starts a magazine that never actually becomes a real publication trying to scam people out of work and investments.
The solution, the last hope we have, is to demand better. We must demand better from ourselves and demand better from others.
That is the only way to put an end to the mentality of things merely being good enough as we continue to support fraudulent talents.
James Patrick, ACG, ALB