Visual Storytellers: Undervalued.

Today’s visual storytellers are under siege. While visual storytelling techniques are crucial to engaging today’s audience, newspapers and TV stations have disregarded best practices, and instead focus on quantity vs. quality models.

Newspaper, television, and media companies have abandoned effective visual storytelling strategies and have laid off large swaths of workers. Many veteran visual storytellers have been replaced with an iPhone and cheap, inexperienced labor. Today, many highly-skilled visual storytellers have found themselves unable to seek employment.

The decline in broadcast quality has decreased viewership and left communities in a media blackout. In some communities, the local press has become extinct, while other community media fights for survival.

How can a business or individual tell their story under these circumstances? We have to become the storyteller.

In this Ignite presentation, I present the decline of effective visual storytellers in the print and television industry.


  1. I love this angle. It’s disheartening to see the lack of value in such an essential piece of news reporting. I was not old enough to understand the sudden elimination of writers and storytellers in the early 2000s, but it seems like it fell in line with the housing crisis.

    As someone who is also no stranger to shooting, interviewing and producing, it is a struggle to make sure the story you’re getting is quality because of all the different directions we’re being pulled in. Unfortunately, with the technology in smartphones only growing, I suspect there will likely never be a return to those types of crews, at least for small-town reporters.

    I would be interested in reading in your paper more about the various ways visual storytellers are under siege. From the employment rates you have laid out in your talk, you leave lots of room to discuss the perception of storytellers and, to some degree, how politics of late have vilified them for trying to report on the truth. I think it would be super interesting to hear your take on that analysis and your anecdotal experience as a storyteller.

    You’re also right; the 15-second limit is a little more difficult than the previous 20 seconds.

  2. Hi Drew,

    I enjoyed your video. I like that we can see your face while you narrate, it adds a nice personal touch. Your voice feels natural and unscripted throughout the video which is difficult to do so I appreciate that. I can tell that you have a lot of passion for this subject because you have personal experience with the work and know how much goes into it. Good photojournalists don’t always get the respect and recognition that they deserve because we are so oversaturated with imagery in our daily lives. I felt that the example of the side-by-side newspapers was a perfect comparison of good vs. bad storytelling through photos.

    I did not realize how damaging the mid 2000s were for photojournalists, I assumed that the loss of jobs for photojournalists came a bit later with the huge rise in popularity of social media. Social media is such a double-edged sword. It is a shame to lose the quality of photojournalism because of the over saturation of amateur photographers and the sheer quantity of content. However, like you said, storytelling is now in the hands of the people now rather than media companies. Media keeps shifting and changing and I don’t see that slowing down any time soon. Hopefully there can be a way for us to balance the availability of storytelling to the average person and capturing the same level of quality that a good photojournalist can.

    You have a lot of content for your final essay if you go more in depth on each of your points. Great video!

  3. Drew-

    First off, I have to say respect for doing your presentation in one take and on camera. You have so many images in your presentation that are very powerful, it’s clear from your selection that you have a passion for what you do. The personal connection you have to this topic makes it all the more compelling. As a freelancer, I see a lot of job listings asking me to not only edit but also shoot and produce for less than my hourly rate of just editing so I get where you’re coming from. I really liked your comparison of the Blackhawks cover photos. They really illustrated how the media has leaned into valuing cheap and easy shots over quality work.

    I think for your paper it would be cool if you highlighted independent visual storytellers that are currently working in this new age of online heavy photojournalism. Twitter has kind of become the news now and while there is a lot of noise to filter through, there are people on there and other social media platforms doing cool work. You could even include some of your own work if you were comfortable sharing.

    Great work and awesome presentation!

  4. Hi Drew,

    What a great topic for your ignite talk! I had no idea that photojournalists were so undervalued, and this information is very effective coming from you, who has personally been affected by the struggles that have come with it.

    One slide that’s particularly significant for me is the one where one paper doesn’t have a photojournalist and the other does. It’s a very stark difference between the two. While smart technology was becoming more readily available at the time those photos were taken – it makes me think about the company’s values when it came to photography. It’s like they didn’t care what the photo looked like at all.

    I’m curious about the advancement of cell phone technology, and what’s expected of photographers now. Because almost everyone has the ability to take good quality photos with smartphones now, but that doesn’t mean they’re photographers. Also, are you finding that there are more people who identify as photojournalists on their own terms with our access to smart technology?

    It was great that you ended your presentation with a positive note about continuing to tell stories through photos. With the rise of technology, there’s been a rise in entrepreneurial efforts, and there are so many resources now to be able to show the world what we work on.

    P.S. I enjoyed that your video includes a preview of you presenting, this makes your topic feel even more real and personal.

  5. Hi Drew,

    Focusing your presentation on the visual storytellers themselves is interesting and helps give an overall view of the state of journalism. How newsrooms have been declining over the years and less focus put into the quality of the journalism done is distressing, and doesn’t look to be changing anytime soon. While technically a journalist can take a picture that can go on the front page, it won’t have the same effect as it would be through the eyes of a visual storyteller.

    I love how you included a video of yourself in your Ignite instead of just being voiceover. It helps connect you to the story and makes it feel more professional. Your narration guides us through the story and the personal anecdote about your experience in the journalism industry. I’m excited to read your essay and see what you can find on how the decline of visual storytellers in newsrooms has affected the quality of journalism done.

    My only comment in terms of the presentation is that your audio had a lot of background noise, and was distracting at times. Besides that, your presentation had a good pace and told the story effectively.

    I can’t wait to read more on your topic!

  6. Hi, Drew. I thought this was a really interesting topic that I hadn’t really thought of much before watching your presentation. On a technical note – I enjoyed that you showed yourself in the corner but felt like some of the audio didn’t match up to the video and it was distracting. While I also give you major props for not reading from a script, there were several instances where I think you could have benefitted from a few more practice runs.

    I felt like your topic was a little muddied. In the beginning, it felt as if you were taking a stance against amateur journalism and the use of cell phones for photography and storytelling because they were taking jobs away from professional storytellers. Then at the end you shifted your focus very quickly to state that each of us can be the storyteller and that we shouldn’t rely on the media. While I understand both points – they felt like they were at odds instead of one flowing into the next.

    I think this is going to be an extremely interesting and well researched final paper. I would continue to rely on your own story to tie the information to a personal place. I would also focus more heavily on the solution or next steps. Why does it matter if news media isn’t using photojournalists or editing and producing with care? Why do we need to be the storytellers? What does that mean to someone who ISN’T affected by media companies downsizing? I am personally very interested in the idea of gatekeeping and I feel like you are just on the cusp of cracking it. I can’t wait to read your paper!

  7. Drew–

    You chose such an incredibly unique topic, and one that I think storytellers, who are often on the other side of the camera, mic or computer, will appreciate.

    It was very well-thought out and you sounded natural and passionate about your topic. As someone who majored in Broadcast Journalism for my undergrad and a current Multimedia Journalist, I found myself nodding and agreeing with every one of your slides. The graphics and photos you chose to aid your talking points worked perfectly!

    My first job out of college was a breaking news reporter and digital content producer who also worked as the floor manager on weekends because news was a little slower at my local CBS station. It’s safe to assume I was completely drained after a year because as your ignite presentation mentions, all our news director cared about was getting things out, not whether it was well-produced. I’ve worked in newspaper, television and currently PR, which cares a lot more about how something is released than the latter two mediums. For your final paper, which I will most definitely read, I would love to see you go more into one-man-bands and the stress of having to go solo, while still producing broadcast-worthy content.

    Again, really looking forward to reading your piece, and awesome job for picking such an important topic!

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