Climate Camp: Give it up for the Guardian!

The Guardian has set up a Flickr group asking people who are attending the Climate Camp this week in South London to send in their pictures from inside the camp:

Please share your photographs with this groups [sic] as events unfold. We’ll feature some of our favourites on guardian.co.uk and maybe in the newspaper version of the Guardian as well. By posting your pictures in this group you agree to let this happen (though copyright remains with you at all times).

Which is a nice way of saying, please send us your pictures so we don’t have to pay photographers for theirs.

Now while getting people to send photos and video to news organisations is a old hat for broadcasters, for the Guardian to set up a Flickr group to harvest free content specifically for an event is something new.

Citizen reporting is far from the best way to gather news. Climate Camp has always instilled a strong sense of Us vs. Them when it comes to the media and for the Guardian to try and cosy up with the campers and use their content for free has serious implications for how the Guardian reports on the camp.

If they want protesters to send them pictures for free they aren’t going to want to be too critical about the camp or actions that people from the camp might be doing. To say nothing of the veracity of the pictures that might be sent in by those opposed to its aims as well as by supporters.

It is no longer news gathering when the subject of a story provides their own content – it is propaganda. Would you trust the Guardian if it took content supplied by the police in the same way?

Or maybe they should employ professional journalists and photographers to independently report what is actually happening.

In a very small way this is actually good for professional photographers as it further invalidates the restrictions Climate Camp organisers want to impose on journalists, which I wrote about yesterday.

If anyone can go on to the camp at any time and take photographs – and now thanks to the Guardian’s Flickr group send them straight to the newspaper – there’s no reason that professional photographers shouldn’t be allowed to either.

The timing of this event may be by no means coincidental. On the 1st of September (half-way through the camp) photographers will be protesting outside the Guardian because of a new contract they have issued that says that they will no longer pay photographers for reuse of photographs.

This means that the Guardian will be allowed to use photographs as many times as they like and syndicate them to other news organisations in perpetuity without having to pay the photographer any more than the original fee for the photographs. Photographers rely on reuse fees to earn a living.

Over 800 photographers have signed a petition against the new conditions and many of them, including myself, will no longer supply the Guardian with images after September the 1st until they renegotiate the terms with the NUJ.

So if you want professional, uncomprimised reporting and photography from Climate Camp this week you might want to look elsewhere than the Guardian.