The Multitasking Journalist — Or Would You Want Your Kid to Become a Professional Photographer?

Manfred Rist, Paris correspondent Neue Zürcher Zeitung NZZ

France Soir fades away. The publication, a French media icon of the past, announced last December that it will stop printing and instead focus on an online version. Even that, it seems, was wishful thinking. By the end of the summer, we expect the title will be gone altogether.

Almost 100 million euros gone up in smoke. That‘s the amount the Russian investor Alexander Pougatchev poured into France Soir since taking over in 2009. I do not pity him too much. But I often passed the offices in the prestigous Champs Elysées Avenue wondering how the staffers in there were doing.

The crisis of course is not limited to France or Europe. Nor is it limited to print, writers, designers, photographers or whoever works in that field. This crisis has spread around the world and the first victims are freelancers. Sorry to be blunt, that’s how it is.

Still, we can hear photographers saying stuff like: “Yes, it has become harder, but I am fine. I have my clients, quality still pays.” But for how many and for how long? Honestly — would you consider that your kids become professional photographers? I wouldn’t.

I remember Dirck Halstead dreaming of the past: In those days (the seventies) money didn’t matter. We stayed in the best hotels and flew first class – of course, what else?

The more likely case today is that nobody wants to commission you. Hardly anyone wants to pay you. And a common answer is, “Sorry, we don’t have a budget — but we’ll give you exposure.”


That’s the new currency, isn’t?

You may be a hero out there in the field. The fact is that photo editors or art directors for that matter sit in fortress-like positions.

Selling from your archive (that gets bigger and bigger) is becoming more and more difficult anyway.

Here is some advice to consider before you go off to you next assignment. But before that, first a few questions (answers further below):

  1. Which print products aren’t hit by the publishing crisis?
  2. What distribution channel is gaining ever more importance over time and is steadily growing?
  3. What is becoming the universal language that hardly needs any translation?
  4. What combines all the aforementioned points?
  5. What’s the basic element that explains a picture in order to make it fully understandable and clear?

Keep that in mind and get ready for multitasking.

Tell the story, but use all your equipment and elements available.

Plan in an extra day, or even two or three.


Tell a full story with stills, words, moving pictures and sound.

I know it sounds strange. Because we were taught you have to be good at one thing. You can’t be a photographer and a filmmaker, a writer and a sound guy at the same time.

Sounds like a good cook can’t drive and good driver can’t cook; a woman can’t raise children and work; and for that kind of reason men can’t raise children, and so forth.

Forget these stereotypes.

We live in a new world.

Going places is as costly as it always has been. The problem today is that less and less people want to pay you for going.

I will never forget what happened to me back in 2007: I had filed a background story on slums in Manila.

The next day the editor called me and to tell me it was a good story. “By the way”, he asked. “Do you have any photos about that mother which the 12 children?”

My answer was, “Yes of course, I even have a video.”

“OK, please send it over!”

So, if you are in a place that is worth a story, do not let the opportunity slip away.

If it is worth to be shot, it is worth to be filmed and described.

If someone is worth to be interviewed, he or she is worth to be recorded, photographed and filmed.

The downside of this is that it takes more time. The good thing is that you normally are given more time — and you discover more sides of the story.

Some people call this multimedia. I call it modern journalism and having more fun with storytelling.

And yes, I almost forgot. The story sells much better!

+++ Answers: 1. Special interest publications; 2. Online; 3. Video; 4. Internet; 5. Caption/text

Manfred Rist is the Paris correspondent of renowned Swiss daily Neue Zürcher Zeitung NZZ.

  • Endavant amb el periodisme modern!Adelante con el
    periodismo moderno….!!Avanti con il giornalismo moderno……!!!
    Forward with the modern journalism…….!!!!

    Vers l’avant avec le journalisme moderne…….!!!!!