The living breed of the news photojournalist
By Matt Mrozinski & Seattle photojournalists
“The shooters in Seattle were some of the best,” it reads. The author of a tabloid blog cited the hiring of a photojournalist trainee as the downfall of Seattle photojournalism.
The original post launching disrespect to all photojournalists in the market. This blog, as it is widely known to do, fanned a false narrative without fact or thought. Most of us would have never seen it or been surprised by the content if we had, after all, exploiting its readers is the business model. Yet folks shared it and appeared to believe it.
Since then I’ve had several professionals reach out to me from across the nation. The Seattle journalism community has a bit of a different story for readers to share than the one told. Let us tell you what you need to know about this market.
“Seattle has always had a great reputation when it comes to storytelling,” says KOMO reporter Lindsay Cohen. “It’s part of what drew me to the job at KOMO nearly eight years ago. It’s also a big reason of what’s kept me here.”
Certainly times are tough in news and many of you share the same struggles. Despite change photojournalism is still very much alive in the Pacific Northwest. To this day Seattle is one of the best local TV news markets on the planet, largely due to the renown photojournalists that work here. We are still among the destinations professionals envy.
The people who work here still wake up every morning (or in the middle of the night) to bring this city a product that very few markets can compare to.
The Northwest has been a beacon of visual storytelling dating back to the 70’s and 80’s. There is Phil Sturholm, John Larson, Ken Jones, Mark Morache, Kurt Austin, John Sharify, Scott Rensberger… don’t get us started with name dropping. We will be here all day.
The tradition continues decades later. We still hire and attract the best talent on the market. The visual storytellers here are proud, hard-working, innovative, and tightly knit, even between the competing stations. We support each other. We admire each other. We hang on to the legacy of what it means to be a Northwest storyteller.
“There’s such a respect in this market for storytelling – and even competition,” says Cohen. “Watching how another crew covered the same story has made me a better journalist.”
“We all have an incredible amount of respect for each other,” says KOMO photojournalist Mike Perry, “And always are encouraging of the other person’s work because we know if we’re pushing each other to be better it will only improve our own creativity and passion. I wouldn’t want to work in any other local news market.”
That camaraderie and rich history inspires us. We are dedicated to training professionals and improving journalism. In 2015, the journalists here put together a scholarship fund to cover the expenses of one “trainee-like” professional to attend a Seattle storytelling workshop. A workshop inspired by Seattle photojournalists. The professional community paid so much out of pocket they ended up with enough money to select TWO and enough left over to pay a portion of expenses for another four MMJ’s. The scholarships were awarded to Storytellers Katie Eastman and Peter Lipomi.
Katie Eastman: “The scholarship felt like my jumping off point into this world that I’ve always wanted to be a part of! It was a dream to meet and learn from the people I had been watching for inspiration for years. I can point to that conference as the weekend I started truly embracing being an MMJ in my career.”
Peter Lipomi: “I was very thankful to have the opportunity. At an earlier point in my career, I was in the position to meet and hear from the best in the industry. The scholarship goes to show you networking is extremely valuable. The workshop gave me the tools and experience to step up and be the voice of a leader.”
In the last 7 years, through grass-roots efforts, we have assembled three highly attended storytelling workshops and are planning a fourth. Thousands of dollars from all Seattle stations were donated for many of these events. Only KARE-TV in Minneapolis can compare.
Seattle continues to support storytelling and photojournalism today. In March, an unprecedented four members of KING-TV and a total of five Seattle storytellers will serve as faculty members at the NPPA News Video Workshop. Total three weeks of donated time from the employer. Impressive, to say the least. As a return on investment and a show of confidence in storytelling, KING hired three world class storytellers from the 2015 & 2016 workshops.
In Seattle we pay a respectable wage, bargained by unions that set-up contracted opportunities like a news photojournalist trainee. A trainee position that was bargained over 30 years ago, and how nearly a dozen or more active photojournalists got their start in this market. Don’t leave out the many other markets that tout the same history. Did people say it was “dying” then?
“Nice to see this from the same newsroom that gave my future wife a similar ‘big break’ about 45 years ago,” said David Busse, a TV News photographer from ABC7.
“Seattle has long been a destination market for photojournalists growing up in the Northwest and around the country”, says KOMO’s Mike Perry. “That’s because you know you will be surrounded by some of the most talented and competitive shooters in the country.”
The most sought-after awards in all TV journalism crafts line the hallways of our stations, as we continue to pursue the type high-level, community-serving journalism that will bring in more. The photojournalism awards continue to flood in with such volume we cannot reasonably tally them all. When folks move on we replenish, we repeat, we honor who have come before us. “Next man up,” says Seahawks Coach Pete Carroll. We dig that.
“We have an entire staff that is still so excited about what it is we do, good solid storytelling,” says KOMO photojournalist Katie Stern. “Storytelling is not a buzzword for us, it is the lens through which we work every story, every day.”
“Dying” in Seattle, we think not. Seattle is the living breed of the news photojournalist.
Seattle and Storytellers is the epicenter of professionals who are fighting for better, innovating survival, devoting ourselves to craft, and are always throwing a lifeline to you.
So come, join us. Learn from the best. The Northwest continues to harbor a once in a lifetime opportunity to work in one of the great photojournalism markets on earth.