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Award-Winning Photojournalists Discuss Journalism, Social Media, and Storytelling in Conflict Scenarios

Images as a Catalyst for Change: New Roles and Challenges for Today's Professional Photojournalists

By Jacopo Iorino

On July 18, 2013, John Cabot University hosted a panel discussion on the current developments in photojournalism in conflict scenarios. The Shoot 4 Change non-profit organization and, the National Press Photographers Association, and the US Embassy Rome sponsored the conference. JCU professor and News Photographer magazine editor Donald R. Winslow moderated the panel and invited discussions on the impact of social media and amateur photography in professional photojournalism. He also emphasized the role of photojournalists as they raise awareness in public opinion thereby acting as a catalyst for change. Award-winning journalists Fabio Bucciarelli and Riccardo Venturi offered their own direct experiences and opinions.

Photojournalism round table at JCUFabio Bucciarelli (winner of the 2013 Robert Capa Gold Medal Award for combat photography) highlighted the technological developments which allow for faster publications and data transmissions. He also reported a struggling economic situation for most photojournalists as many magazines will not send journalists into war zones. For this reason, most combat photographers are freelance and have no insurance coverage. At the end of his discussion he flashed the prize-winning images of his expedition in war-torn Syria. These images were both shocking and moving as they portrayed women embracing their dead children, people abandoning their homes, wounded rebels, and all the tragic aspects of guerilla warfare.

Riccardo Venturi (who won many awards for his photojournalism in earthquake- hit Haiti such as the World Press Photo 2011 first prize) concentrated on explaining why journalists are still very important in a world dominated by social media and fast communications. According to his perspective, photojournalists are still essential to provide an objective and unbiased perspective of conflicts and warzones. Individuals who are directly involved in the conflict will tend to be biased and to favor their own side; a journalist must be professional and absolutely impartial. Venturi also brought a set of powerful photos from Haiti. The images portrayed the aftermath of the 2010 earthquake and showed the desolation of a country as a victim of a natural disaster, gang wars and looting.

Antonio Amendola (Founder and President of Shoot 4 Change) defended the fundamental role of civilian journalists and social media such as Facebook and Twitter that rapidly spread news and information. His organization tries to partner civilian journalists with professional journalism as collaborators instead of competitors. However, he also recommends supervising the source as only journalists guarantee the impartiality of information. Continuing on these lines, Professor Winslow explained that many journalists are subject to a code of ethics which provides rules to avoid biased information.

Photojournalism round table at JCU in Rome

Small photo: from left to right Prof. Donald Winslow, Antonio Amendola, President Franco Pavoncello, Riccardo Venturi, and Fabio Bucciarelli; large photo: Prof. Donald Winslow and his Introduction to Photojournalism students (photos by Eleonora Di Donna)