If you are a professional photographer who does editorial work the odds are very high  that you spend most days doing something other than “being on assignment”.

If you are, or more likely were a professional photojournalist and for some reason still believe you can support yourself try this:  click on CNN.com.  There you will see an endless buffet of photography, video and “reportage” concerning the disaster in the Gulf of Mexico and on our shores.

Note well the “contributors”.  Only one appears to be a professional (was a US Marine photographer) the balance are playing at being a photo journalist and/or reporter.  Most do not even use their real names.  Even if someone wanted to contact them to license their photography or simply re-use it without charge it is not clear whether they could be found or if found, whether CNN has obtained all rights by now.  There is a piece of video showing the explosion at the rig which could have been licensed for many, many thousands of dollars but rather (it appears) was simply supplied by the lensman at no charge.  Wonder if the shooter knows that the money saved by CNN by not paying him helps to pay for Soledad O’Brien’s First Class plane tickets and for some executive’s Audi.

And why is CNN the beneficiary of such largess?  Because it simply asked for it.  CNN requested free content and received gobs of it (pun intended).  No doubt many contributors are well intentioned and believe they are doing some service to America by reporting on this ever building catastrophe BUT their contributions prove yet again that professional, trained photojournalists are no longer sought nor required by the so-called “professional media”.

Again, we do not criticize CNN or the countless other media outlets who ask for, receive and employ free imagery.  They are doing the commercially responsible thing by boosting their bottom line for the benefit of their stockholders.  They have no concern for professional photographers whatsoever.  Need more proof?  Want to get more depressed?

Ad Age reports today that a year’s worth of Popular Science in print will run a subscriber between 10 – 12$ based on who sells the subscription but a year on the iPad will cost $29.95.  83 cents for print and $2.50 per digital edition.  The publication points to other magazines with similar pricing structure or even print subscriptions running about the same price as digital ones.

Here’s the point hard and fast:  we have all heard how print is expensive, an anachronism, the oppresive costs of postage, etc. and that digital is far cheaper. The logic is clear and unassailable. So why if a magazine like Popular Science dramatically boosts its bottom line by selling a product cheaper to deliver for more than double the price of the “more expensive version”, don’t photographers and other creators benefit by this mini (or maxi) windfall?

Seems logical that there should be a few extra bucks beginning to flow that could go to creators and product improvement.   Bet your life that no photographers or authors will see any of this additional money.  Excuses will flow from corporate types like oil in the Gulf.  Creators will not get paid even when this “new” money appears.  Countless free contributions, low standards of quality and rate cards so low that there is no reason for your clients to open up their check books.  Even when money is there creators are the last ones on line because they permit themselves to be elbowed aside by others who exhibit  greater tenacity when their livelihoods are on the line.

My bet is that if you raise this topic with with media clients you will be brushed aside and told that you “just don’t understand how these things work”. Do it anyhow, be pushy or be extinct.

Ed Greenberg