"What a sad night when your newspaper sends photographers to cover this event who have no sense of professionalism. When taking pictures it is great to cheer for the school they support. But these 2 women yelled at refs, made comments to opposing athletes and insighted (sic) an already bad situation... Is that really the reputation the Standard Examiner wants? Disgusting..."
-- Comment posted on Standard.net for story on high school wrestling match
With advances in technology and electronic media, journalism is no longer the bastion of professionals. Bloggers, parents, students -- basically anyone with a camera and computer --- can report, take pictures and publish content with a mixture of opinion and news for the general public.
This blending of "citizen journalism" with professional journalism has both positive and negative impacts on how information is disseminated.
The positive side is that everyone can be involved, which provides more choices and opportunities for people to share, and consume, information. The negative side is that "citizen journalists" often have a bias or agenda.
At the recent Region 1 high school wrestling championships, two mothers of Syracuse High School wrestlers received credentials from the high school athletics association to take pictures mat-side.
They were openly cheering for the Syracuse wrestlers, which annoyed those in the audience supporting other schools. The situation was magnified when a Layton High School wrestler was disqualified in a match with a Syracuse wrestler and tempers flared.
There is disagreement as to whether the actions of the women contributed to the tense situation. Some people thought the women were our photographers and posted comments or contacted us to complain about their "unprofessional" behavior.
This isn't the first time such a mistake has been made. Professional photographers report they are getting blamed more and more for the conduct of citizen photographers, especially at athletic events.
Photographers say they've seen an increase in the number of people with credentials to be courtside at basketball games or on the sidelines at football games who openly yell at referees or taunt players. This makes it more difficult for the photographers to do their jobs and reflects poorly on their status.
There needs to be a tightening of credentials handed out to cover such events. Of course, if we say only professional journalists should be credentialed, that opens up a new debate as to the definition of a professional. Even independent bloggers can make money off their work through donations and advertising on their websites.
The Society of Professional Journalists has a code of ethics, which include avoiding conflicts of interest and remaining "free of associations and activities that may compromise integrity or damage credibility."
We expect all our content providers -- employees and freelancers -- to abide by this rule.
Maybe when nonaffiliated photographers apply for credentials, the sponsoring organization could have them fill out a form that includes a pledge to abide by the SPJ code of ethics, and even provide a copy of the code.
This won't stop the public from confusing amateurs with the professionals. But if it helps to improve the conduct of the independents and they act like professionals, then the issue becomes a moot point.
Andy Howell is executive editor. He can be reached at 801-625-4210 or email@example.com.