Newspaper reporters in the UK have refused to accept assignments normally given to professional photographers, in protest over photography job cuts.

[Photo credit: C Cheesman]

The move follows a torrid year for press photographers – described by the National Union of Journalists (NUJ) as an ‘annus horribilis’ – during which non-photographers have increasingly supplied news images and camera phone picture quality has improved.

It comes as news agency Reuters is reportedly cutting the number of its staff photographers from 18-15, and newspaper publisher Newsquest halves its north London team from six to three, says the NUJ.

According to the union, three photographers are set to lose their jobs in the Midlands.

Peter John, group editor of Newsquest’s Worcester division, did not confirm how many jobs would go, or where they are based, when contacted by Amateur Photographer today.

The NUJ accuses publishers of using trainee reporters to take photos ‘without providing them with technical or health and safety training’.

The union quotes a letter by Newsquest North London which reportedly blames the cuts on ‘reduced space in our titles, the improvement in the quality and quantity of mobile devices used extensively throughout the department and an increase in the number of pictures submitted to the news desk from external sources’.

NUJ Northern and Midlands organiser Chris Morley warned: ‘The all-out assault by newspaper companies against their staff photographers is in danger of wiping out a whole critical and valuable skill set from the newsroom as we know it.’

Opposing compulsory redundancies, a motion passed by the Stourbridge Newsquest NUJ chapel said: ‘Should the company make compulsory redundancies, the chapel has resolved to meet and consider the possibility of industrial action.

‘We also wish to make it clear that, as reporters, we are opposed to the replacement of professional photographers by other staff.

‘Therefore, NUJ members have resolved not to accept assignments which would normally be given to professional photographers.’

Other NUJ chapels are ‘expected to follow suit as staff photographers and picture desk staff are being targeted for redundancy across the UK’.

A Reuter’s spokesperson told Amateur Photographer: ‘At a time of increasing competition, we need to work in the most efficient way we can and avoid internal duplication.

‘Putting ourselves on a more solid financial footing will allow us to keep our place as the world leader in high quality news and sport photography.’