Mediocrity and Anemia Ravage the Newsstand

Diego Giudice, director photo agency Archivolatino
Diego Giudice, director photo agency Archivolatino

By DIEGO GIUDICE

After five years without visiting the USA, last month I had the opportunity to fly for a few days to San Francisco, California. I always enjoyed the U.S., among other things because I could catch up with a vast variety of newspapers and magazines of the highest quality, a fact that over the years inspired me and helped me to glimpse the paths we should walk through. This time was quite different.

Just arriving to my hotel, I found in my room a courtesy copy of a thin version of the San Francisco Chronicle, one of the more relevant media of the country. Last time I browsed a hard copy, it was more than 100 pages full of news, stories and great photography.

I thought that his copy was so thin because was just a free copy for hotels and visitors. So went across the street to buy the “real” San Francisco Chronicle. Surprise: the copy at my hotel and the “real one” were the same.

I bought two other newspapers covering the bay area of San Francisco and met the same kind of anemic versions of thriving and vibrant media I got to know years ago. All of them had few pages, few stories and quite discreet pictures.

The evolution of news also transforms the newsstand: from a once vibrant media hub... | businessinsider.com
The evolution of news also transforms the newsstand: from a once vibrant media hub… | businessinsider.com
That same day I visited a newsstand. I’ve spent hours of my life browsing newspapers, magazines and books in the huge newsstands of many U.S. cities. In an average trip I came back to my country carrying an entire bag full of great magazines with awesome photographs.

But the anemia had ravaged the newsstand. Many of the magazines that were a reference for the global publishing industry are still there, but most of them shrank. Others, even myths of the industry like Newsweek, are not there anymore.

But there was a curious paper version of the Chicago Sun Times, the very same that last month fired all of their staff photographers, including a Pulitzer Prize winner. Now the newspaper is illustrated with photos taken by reporters with iPhones.

... to the antiseptic urbanity. Not much space left for good photography. | adswithoutproducts.com
… to the antiseptic urbanity. Not much space left for good photography. | adswithoutproducts.com
Clearly, the press and therefore photojournalism are not in their best shape in the United States. I know the same situation is occurring in all corners of the world, but it is quite striking to see what used to be an example for the international media turned into mediocre vehicles of information.

Internet seems to sign the death warrant of newspapers and magazines, even those of international fame because their were pioneers with their stories and photos. Some blame the same media for not finding out a way to adapt to the unavoidable changes of the world.

Maybe within the Internet a better journalism will emerge. Maybe all photographers having a hard time now will find a way to make a living on online media.

All this is possible. But I could not help, on the long flight back to Argentina, to feel some bitterness at I thought about of all this.

Diego Giudice is the director of Archivolatino, a photo archive specialized in Latin America that resisted and survived a decade of radical changes in the professional market.

Diego Giudice has been a writer for ten years before becoming a professional photographer. He worked for The Associated Press in Venezuela and Brazil. He went back to native Argentina where he founded Archivolatino and runs the photo agency to this day, against all odds.

  • Ron

    The only paper worth reading is the International edition of the Herald Tribune. Unfortunately not available to US readers that need a 2 line article to inform them something they don’t understand is going on. The Internet is not the problem, its just as bad. Perhaps a reflection of the educational system, or lack thereof.

    • Our attention span has finally succumbed to infotainment. We zigzag from stimulus to stimulus, only to forget what we just did or saw or were thinking about.

      There are still some very fine publications available, but they’re all struggling. Too much distraction everywhere. Why spending time trying to understand something that doesn’t even affect one’s life? Of course I’m not cynical…

  • CBD

    But…San Francisco has always been known for the incredible mediocrity of its newspapers. In fact, many have observed how bizarre it is that one of the best educated, sophisticated, and literary urban populations in America have put up for so long with papers that are put to shame by the newspapers in Cleveland, Ohio, and Detroit, Michigan, let along New York, Washington and Boston. But all that aside, the American print media is going to hell, and doing so very quickly