VII's Mayes Comments on Partisan Reporting

Posted on 4/22/2010 by Jim Pickerell | Printable Version | Comments (0)

NGOs Fund Photojournalism: Slippery Slope? Can the reader trust the reporting not to be biased when photojournalism projects are funded by non-profit and non-governmental organizations? Read more.

Stephen Mayes, director of VII Photo, offers his view on NGO-funded projects. “The question of journalists’ independence when funded by NGOs is entirely appropriate, and VII is sensitive to the issue,” he told Selling Stock.

“Of course, it’s not a new issue. The question of who pays the photographer has always been crucial in selecting partners to work with and applies equally to news organizations and to NGOs. Many journalists (and readers) have become lazy in assuming that the interests of for-profit publishers are somehow neutral or benign in the process of disseminating information, but it’s not so. There has been more than one occasion when I have withheld contracted work from ‘reputable’ titles when the copy, headlines or captions have been inappropriate. 

“Those of us who were around in the run-up to the invasion of Iraq will recall that all the prestigious titles took a far from neutral line on the war and the hard decision facing anti-war photographers was whether to accept payment from pro-war publications such as The New York Times, Time, The Economist and many others. Aside from the ideological slant inherent in every publication, let’s not forget the amazing propensity of nearly every news outlet to ‘report’ press releases as news and to collaborate in staged photo opportunities, often organized with blatant political or commercial intentions.

“We can’t relinquish responsibility to the media to set standards—it’s up to us to ensure the quality of our work wherever we choose to publish. The integrity of the journalist defines the quality of the output. The decisions start with the selection of our partners whether they be magazines, networks, NGOs or corporations. And while it’s important to question the system, it’s even more important to judge the outcome, case by case. 

“The question about partisan reporting is a little late in coming, but it’s as relevant now as it’s ever been. The daily decision about which partners to work with is ongoing. The price of liberty is eternal vigilance.”

Copyright © 2010 Jim Pickerell. The above article may not be copied, reproduced, excerpted or distributed in any manner without written permission from the author. All requests should be submitted to Selling Stock at 10319 Westlake Drive, Suite 162, Bethesda, MD 20817, phone 301-461-7627, e-mail: wvz@fpcubgbf.pbz

Jim Pickerell is founder of, an online newsletter that publishes daily. He is also available for personal telephone consultations on pricing and other matters related to stock photography. He occasionally acts as an expert witness on matters related to stock photography. For his current curriculum vitae go to:  


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