We’ve had a number of cases where we’ve had to ban reporters from Demotix, for all kinds of reasons.
This has made us realise that there are no comprehensive guidelines about what kind of content might make us ban you on the site. Since we know that a lot of you are campaigners, activists, or other fighters for causes, we thought it was about time we posted something.
There are several considerations that we needed to take into account when writing something like this:
- We need to make sure we can't be accused of selling biased or staged photos or news.
- We need to hold true to our commitment to hosting a diversity of opinion.
- We need to avoid scaring you with the threat of being banned without warning for using Demotix the same way you always have.
This isn’t something we do very regularly, and it’s always a serious decision for us to make. We know that a lot of regular contributors see Demotix as a part of their life; it’s where you come for news and to chat to fellow journalists, as well as a place to market your photos online. You guys are just as much a part of our lives as well; after all, we spend all day talking to you and helping you get your work out there!
We follow the “Golden Rule” proposed by Jimmy Wales of Wikipedia, known as “assume good faith”. We start from the position that people uploading their news to Demotix are trying to use it responsibly and genuinely.
If we come across people who are uploading stories that look suspect to us, we start by gently reminding them of the rules. We might become worried about a user because we can’t verify their photos, because the text or images themselves look unreliable, embellished, or dishonest, or because they’re uploading irrelevant images, file images, or PR shots aimed at supporting a cause rather than reporting a news event.
Once we’ve let a user know that they’re not using the site in the way it’s intended, we watch them carefully for a while. Most of the time, that user will turn into a responsible and valued member of the Demotix community. This is particularly true if other reporters encourage and support them, and if they take the time to learn from others' output.
However, sometimes despite our best efforts people either don’t understand what they’re doing wrong or think that they can get away with ignoring what Demotix is about.
If someone can’t or won’t be convinced that they need to follow the rules to make a useful contribution, this leaves us with little option but to ban the user’s account.
The upshot of all this is: keep doing what you’re doing. If we’re worried about your stories, our publishers will get in touch. We don’t ban people without warning or without explaining exactly why we’re doing it and giving them a second chance.
If you're an old hand or a professional journalist, you can help out too! Take a look at some of the other stories being posted on Demotix- it's a community, after all. If you see something that looks fishy or unusual, why not leave a comment and ask for clarification? A lot of the time, the user will be able to explain - and then that will be permanently available on that story's page.
UPDATE 28/03/12: Alex Milan Tracy, quite possibly the most prolific contributor on Demotix ever and a veteran of many a protest shoot, recommends this panel discussion on "The Photographer as Activist":
... and our very own Matt Richards reminds us about this excellent short documentary looking at how photojournalists can be the witting or unwitting accomplices of activists wanting to make their actions seem more significant.