I am well aware that the media world as we know it is moving to the web and that social media is fast becoming THE media channel of choice. Something popped in my e-mail box recently from the web, via a social media channel that nearly knocked me out of my chair. It was not some incredible image or fancy animation, though I see plenty of those on the web these days. It was actually a text-based promotion and what it said left me dumbfounded. It was a reminder that words and especially the message are more important than the delivery channel.
I have an account with LinkedIn (as well as Facebook and Twitter.) To date I have not figured out how to fully use LinkedIn for my work/promotion as effectively as Facebook and Twitter, but that may change. A recent LinkedIn email, which was just the forwarded version of something on the LinkedIn site popped into my e-mail box. The relevant part is in the image below.
I thought to myself, are they serious? 16,550 people have this skill? I am aware that such a skill designation is pure “self reporting” and there is no objective criteria used to define what the skill actually is or how many people legitimately possess that same skill. Even with that in mind, if 16,550 people in the LinkedIn universe think they have “Photojournalism” skills, how many tens of thousands more photographers outside of LinkedIn think the same way?
Equally remarkable is the fact that the number of people promoting them selves on LinkedIn claiming that same skill has increased by 7% in the last year! Did all those new “photojournalists” just graduate from college? Or, more likely, did the 7% growth come in the form of photographers who just clicked one more button on the LinkedIn page designed to “adds skills.”
I have nothing for or against LinkedIn, by the way. In some ways it is perfect mirror of the working world, in this case highlighting what people want to do. What I would like to see on LinkedIn is how many people actually make the majority of their income from “Photojournalism.” I do NOT qualify for that group by the way. I have not for a while. The other statistic I really would like to see on LinkedIn is how many photojournalists will be needed in the years ahead. I would bet that the 7% growth in photographers with photojournalism skills roughly matches the decline in demand for people with those same skills.
The LinkedIn promotional machine opened our “dialogue” saying:
“Do you have skills that people are looking for? Every skill you add to your profile makes you easier to find. Start adding skills.”
So I looked down and saw the other “skills” I could “add,” including “Lightroom, Portraits, Photo Editing and Digital Photography. What do they mean by the last two, Photo Editing and Digital Photography? Once those were skills that only a few “techies” had. Now it is assumed you have those skills. I am not against labeling of skills nor am I opposed to the assumption that anyone claiming to be a professional photographer should have skills in “Photo Editing and Digital Photography.”
No, my issue is that many, many photographers think they can give themselves an “edge” in today’s hyper-competitive market by claiming to have skills in “Photojournalism.” As sad as it is to think that pushing one button on LinkedIn “makes” one a photojournalist, it is even sadder to know that out there in the LinkedIn universe, there are people who believe it when someone who shouldn’t be doing so actually claims to have skills in “Photojournalism.”
The saddest thing of all is that real photojournalists, with real skills and real experience, have to compete with button-pushing wannabes. I am not sure how LinkedIn would make a button out of my experience in photojournalism, but I wish they would. If they could pack all these things into a “skills” button, I would be the first to use it:
• Contract photographer for the first Gulf War for Life magazine.
• Survivor of repeated May Day protests and other riots in Los Angeles working for the Los Angeles Times.
• Producer of 16 photo-essays, many of which won major awards, for the Philadelphia Inquirer Sunday Magazine.
• Survivor of dozens of harrowing fires, floods, earthquakes, hostage situations, police chases, auto accidents and mud slides on assignment for newspapers large and small.
My guess is that even if all that could be fit into one “button,” most of the people on the hiring end of LinkedIn would not have the time to read that deep into that button (or my qualifications.) The point of my rant is not that I want work again as photojournalist. Rather, the skills of “Photo- journalism” are not acquired by pushing a button on LinkedIn. To steal a line from an old TV commercial, when it comes to photojournalists… “We earn our skills the old fashioned way…. We earn them.”