I’ve been a member of the San Francisco Bay Area Press Photographers Association (henceforth referred to as BAPPA) since 1978. I’ve served on the board, entered their annual contest, judged the contest, and made lifelong friends. They are my people. But there are problems. I was a television news photog for twenty-eight years and have always been a supporter of unions and professional organizations. But now I am saddened by a seeming stagnation of broadcast members in BAPPA. The print side is healthy and growing. There are monthly get-togethers and an annual Digital Workshop. For the past four years BAPPA has hosted a Digital Video Workshop…meant to give college students an overview of the profession and help new photographers entering the field learn some basics and network with folks at the top of the food chain. The first year we had 20 students and ten plus broadcast news photogs. Then there was a shift…and suddenly the workshop was filled with print people trying to learn video. No problems with that – but we were no longer giving any support to our television brethren.
I feel that there is a disconnect with our broadcast members (and potential members). Paul Sakuma, BAPPA president, wants me to send out a survey asking broadcast photographers (both members and nonmembers) what we can do for them. This is just a beginning – they may not know what they want or what BAPPA can do to support them.
Personally I think it may be because of perception – by the employer, the employee, and the public – about the role of the visual journalist as part of the news operation.
This may be because (opinion again) they work with a reporter who is seen (first) as a TV star and (second) as a reporter. The amount of equipment traditionally carried by TV photogs turns them into living breathing pack mules. They set up live shots and run microwave trucks. So there they are: the perception is subservient, technician, pack mule.
This lack of identiy has made television photographers an almost invisible class. While they are what sets television news apart from print and radio, they are not given recognition as individuals…
I’d like to hear from both sides – print and TV. Why don’t broadcast photogs join/participate in professional organizations? Are they too busy? Do they not care? Do they feel the organizations don’t support them or have anything to offer? I realize that TV stations have large staffs, but there may be more photogs on more newspapers. However, in the Bay area we aren’t tapping into nearly the numbers that are out there.
Email me or leave a comment. I need to have this survey together in the next few weeks and could use some suggestions.