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.’

  • Studio Grey

    Levels of image illiteracy are awful. If we had the same level of reading competence in this country ministers would be sacked! Newspapers get away with poor images because the public knows no better. Take a quick look at Facebook and all the poor, blurred, badly composed, irrelevant tat that the average punter puts up (and gets loads of ‘awwwww nice’ likes) and you can see where we are as a society. The only answer is for picture editors to do their jobs properly. For the educated to slam poor images in any media.

  • Viking9

    Very true. Also newspapers have “dumbed down” photography, by favouring paparazzi operators over bona fide news photographers, many of whom have drifted away from a profession they no longer recognise. The resulting decline in quality reflected in plunging circulation of all daily newspapers over a number of years..
    The heavy repressive atmosphere in most newsrooms these days, means that entries into the profession with real talent and imagination are quickly squeezed out. Only the plods who “keep their heads down and do as they’re told” survive.
    Eventually these people graduate to executive positions, and the dumbing down process passes down to the next generation of hopefuls.

  • Peter Kelly

    There are two main issues that drive this, supported by the change in technology giving the ability for everyone to have a camera.

    First, the strange, almost gossip-driven, attitude of the public that there is some form of kudos to having your pictures/video published. This leads to a scramble trying to take pictures of almost anything, regardless of how foolish, dangerous, or disrespectful that might be. When the pictures are obtained they are sent through to news outlets and given free, in return for nothing other than bragging rights

    The second is the laziness and cheapness of current news gathering. Go to any mainstream newspaper and many of the stories are just copied and pasted from other sources, even to the extent of the writing being word for word. It seems to matter little that the news would be irrelevant to those reading it in a completely different part of the world. The Mirror is a fine example of this!

    Unfortunately, because the media are cheap and lazy, and are well aware of the endless supply of free pictures, they simply will not pay for any. I have, on a number of occasions, offered to supply pictures and stories to the Liverpool Echo, but they decline to make any payment, They still want the shots, though (no chance!).

    The sad fact is that journalism, for the most part, has just become a tawdry money-making business, unconcerned about the truth and genuine information. I doubt the action by these photographers will have the slightest effect while the public keep shovelling their cellphone snaps in the news medias direction.