British journalists stand up for photojournalists

NUJNUJ british journalist union wrote and many others quoted them (Amateur Photographer, PetaPixel, etc.) about an uncommon act of journalists. In last December the local workers’ union  of Stourbridge Newsquest starting a protest. Journalists of the newspaper stood up in protest not doing what the professional photographers fired from the newspaper were doing: taking pictures.

Widespread layoff of photojournalists reaches more and more publications across the United Kingdom. This often results journalists are instructed to take photos for their articles. Writers now raised their concerns against this practice. The National Union of Journalists says others may join them soon.

Another NUJ article calls 2014 to be annus horribilis – a horrible year for news photographers because of the recent layoffs on the island. Some papers cut their photo staff back to a half or even to a quarter. Some publications keep only one out of three photographers, but some newspapers can loose a  dozen photographers. Some of them can stay in part time or as freelancers, but their livelihood is in danger now.
Union officials say these assignments previously done by the photo staff will now be assigned to interns or writers who lack the proper gear and the knowledge too. There are also rumours about some publications running photos taken by a nine year old boy.

A letter quoted from publisher Newsquest North London tells the reason of the layoffs is because of the decrease of pages and the surface the newspaper has to fill with content, the increase in mobile phone image quality and their penetration in the society and the increasingly large number of photos submitted to the publications.
Also involved in the layoffs, a spokesperson of Reuters says they “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.” Mentioning high quality sports photography seems ironic on behalf of Reuters considering they fired just over a year ago all of their US based sports photographers to use photos provided by a local agency instead.

Union officials say the publishers’ photographer layoffs threaten with “wiping out a whole, critical and valuable skill set from the newsroom as we know it. […] They and others should recognise the critical role photographers play in recording our public and community life. Who will be there to do it when they’re gone? An over-stretched reporter or an unpaid member of the public simply whipping out a smart-phone to take a quick snap smacks of exploitation. […] This race to the bottom will alienate readers and is completely short-sighted and unfair.”

The union urges an intervention to save photojournalism because these cuts “will lead to the extinction of a whole job category.”

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