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Endangered species list: Newspaper staff photographer

Discussion in 'Journalism topics only' started by I Should Coco, Apr 22, 2014.

  1. I Should Coco

    I Should Coco Well-Known Member

    Thought of this topic as I viewed the recently-revived "Do You Shoot" thread, but didn't want to threadjack it.

    To my small shop's credit (we're a 20K daily), we decided to fill a photographer position that will open when one of our two full-time photogs moves out of the area in June.

    I'm stunned by how many resumes we've received for what is basically an entry-level-pay position at a relatively small newspaper. Hundreds and hundreds have applied.

    I guess I shouldn't be surprised, after hearing in recent years about entire photos staffs being let go (Chicago Sun Times) and the frequent loss of photogs when staff cuts are made.

    Pew Research Center backs this up: between 2000 and 2012, 43 percent of photographer/videographer jobs at U.S. newspapers were eliminated (link: http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2013/11/11/at-newspapers-photographers-feel-the-brunt-of-job-cuts/ )

    Even though we still have our two photogs, our shop continues to see (and even worse, use) more and more fuzzy, pixelated, poorly executed submitted photos to fill the sometimes-cavernous space between dwindling ads.

    If our shooters weren't willing/able to shoot special section stuff, they'd probably be gone, too.

    Just wondering what the status of photographers is for others on SportsJournalists.com.

    I certainly don't envy those of you writing/shooting/taking video/blogging at events, doing what used to be the work of at least two people. And unfortunately, it shows in the quality of what you are forced to produce.

    Best of luck to all the former newspaper photogs reading this, too. I hope you've all found something better.
  2. DeskMonkey1

    DeskMonkey1 Active Member

    I only use submitted photos when I have no other choice. We're talking wall-to-wall, top-to-bottom gray being the alternative
  3. Mizzougrad96

    Mizzougrad96 Active Member

    I can pick up a paper and within seconds guess with about 90 percent accuracy which photos were taken by trained, professional photographers and hacks with an iPhone.

    It blows my mind how horrible some of the photos that make the paper these days are. It also blows my mind how many typos and mistakes make the paper these days.

    You get rid of that many photogs and copy editors, the quality of the section is going to go down considerably. But papers don't give a shit anymore.
  4. Dick Whitman

    Dick Whitman Well-Known Member

    It is truly unbelievable, and it seems to be an area where sports suffers most. Or at least a lot.

    When I covered preps, we would run these terrific feature portraits of local athletes. It was amazing what the staff photogs would come back with. Now, they have the writers take the shots, and they look like something from the school news letter.
  5. Batman

    Batman Well-Known Member

    This. I'm realizing this more and more, and it pisses me off because I'm one of the dwindling few at my shop who still do seem to give a shit.
    One of my ME's favorite sayings is "It's not necessarily the best paper you can produce. It's the best one you can afford to produce."
    I think it's the corporate mission statement. That philosophy has led to staff cuts (ours is about half of what it was 18 months ago); no replacement hires, or at least no competent replacements, for the people who started leaving on their own after the purge began; and the not-so-gradual decline of overall quality as those left realize no one cares about good work. After all, if the people writing the checks don't care, and don't plan to reward it, then what's the incentive?
    We have a few people in our newsroom who are still good at their jobs and pretty gung-ho, but I see them getting worn down more and more every day. I dread the day they reach their breaking point.
  6. HanSenSE

    HanSenSE Well-Known Member

    Another "halleuja" from the choir. We have two shooters on a 10K paper and both do good work. I know they'd rather shoot sports than the cow out in the field, but also like being spared the grip and grins, check-passings, execution at dawn shots and the cow out in the field (unless the CP falls through).

    And I do give a damn about putting out a quality product, but there's so many things on my plate I fear it gets lost sometimes. Or is that just a given at a Lee paper?
  7. I Should Coco

    I Should Coco Well-Known Member

    Some of these replies have me thinking of another problem regarding photo quality ... HanSen mentions it with his "centerpiece falls through" comment.

    When newsroom positions get cut like they have, the luxury of advance planning is reduced greatly if not eliminated.

    This means instead of having several days to shoot pics with a CP or feature story, it's 3:30 on the day we're laying it out when photographers are told, "We're using that story on A1 (or the sports front) tonight because something fell through." Or because "we don't have anything else where we can get art."

    That's how you get what Dick termed "school news letter" quality photos as centerpieces.

    Preaching to the choir, I know.

    Still, despite all these obstacles, when you have professional photogs on the staff, you can still get great art from breaking news and sports events, and good feature photos when the stars align. So I'm grateful for the effort of our shooters.
  8. SFIND

    SFIND Well-Known Member

    Photographers are endangered, and I expect more than 43 percent of the remaining positions cut before the end of this decade.

    My shop has made it clear. They're equally as happy with an iPhone headshot I take in front of a locker room of a player as a quality portrait done by a staff photographer. If it's properly exposed and in focus, it's good enough. As such, 80 percent of the photo staff is gone. And the other papers and websites around here are doing the same thing. And of course, when you have the mom with a camera sending in pics for free that she takes, that further erases the need for staff photographers, according to management.

    I feel sorry for other reporters too. They're being given a six-year old entry-level DSLR with a 70-300 4-5.6 lens and being asked to take pictures with high school stadium lighting. Or worse, use that combo in a small high school gym. Good luck. The results that I see in their papers aren't even in focus or properly exposed.

    I have to do photos and video (and now they also want separate audio clips of interviews off of our recorders), and I'll be the first one to admit that my copy suffers. But, as long as I get the photo slideshow, video, and article submitted by deadline, they're happy with mediocre copy. It's to the point now that they want Jack of all Trades. That national award winning columnist? "He doesn't get enough page clicks, tell him to adapt and shoot pictures and video with his stuff or be fired."

    It will get worse in this area, because technology will get better and better. Cell phones couldn't take pictures ten years ago. The stuff that the Nokia phones (with 43 MP sensors) is surprisingly detailed. In ten years, I can only imagine the quality of photos those things will take, as well as video. And with that, all the more photographers will be out of a job.
  9. Mark2010

    Mark2010 Active Member

    I worked lead news desk at one place that had ditched all of its photographers. Occasionally we would spring for a real freelancer.

    Most days it was either stuff shot by reporters or submitted. Some of the stuff I had to choose from for an A1 centerpiece was pretty terrible. But, hey, what you gonna do? So glad I got out of there.
  10. Walter Burns

    Walter Burns Member

    We had to fire a photographer for cause at the Gannett shop where I used to work. We posted the position, interviewed a couple people for it, froze it and then it went away in a round of cutbacks.
    Afterward, we had one staff photographer (who didn't work on weekends) covering a two-county area. It was an adventure, to say the least. However, if anything came out of it, it's that my photography skills got better.
  11. Mark2010

    Mark2010 Active Member

    I don't know why some editors and management types failed to respect photography as a vital part of journalism.
  12. Cosmo

    Cosmo Well-Known Member

    We've had three full-time photogs for a while, plus a very active freelancer that does a ton of sports for us. We're a 40K. Just filled an opening. They do a lot of the videography and photo stories for us and do a damn good job, so I think that makes them a little more valuable. I certainly appreciate them.
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