21 April 2014

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Photographer roles axed across Johnston Press region

A group of Johnston Press newspapers is set to be left without any staff photographers after a review of how photographic content is generated.

All photographers will soon be leaving the company’s Midlands publishing unit, most taking an enhanced voluntary redundancy package, with a small number facing compulsory redundancy.

HTFP reported in November that photographers in some areas of the Midlands and Scotland were at risk of compulsory redundancy as a result of the content review.

The company has now confirmed it will have no staff photographers for titles across its Midlands publishing division, which includes newspapers in Lincolnshire, Warwickshire, Northamptonshire and Buckinghamshire.

Johnston Press has not confirmed the number of photographers leaving the company but said most had taken an enhanced voluntary redundancy package, which was on offer across most areas of the business in the latter part of 2013.

There are understood to be fewer than ten compulsory redundancies among the photographic staff affected.

A spokeswoman for Johnston Press said: “All photographers will soon be leaving titles within the Midlands region following a review – at local level – of the way photographic content is generated.

“Most photographers have taken an enhanced voluntary redundancy package. A small number of photographic positions were placed at risk and final consultation is underway with those likely to be affected.”

A source told HTFP that five staff photographers would be leaving Northamptonshire Newspapers by the end of March, two currently based in Kettering at the Northants Telegraph and three in Northampton, at the Chronicle and Echo.

He said the papers would instead rely on freelance photographers, along with increasing use of submitted pictures from readers and reporters taking photos on their phones.

When the plans were first revealed, the National Union of Journalists claimed that 24 photographers were at risk in Scotland and the Midlands, but JP has not confirmed the exact number affected.

It is understood that some of the photographers whose roles are being axed may be re-employed by the company on a freelance basis.

46 Comments

  1. lensman

    Sad to see them go.. hopefully those freelancing for Johnston will charge proper commercial rates for the job .Best of luck to them all.

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  2. JP Cost Cut Victim

    I’m a little confused by JPs actions. If “all photographers will soon be leaving the company’s Midlands publishing unit” why were they offered enhanced VR? Harshly, this seems bad management (when the company is drastically cost cutting). They are being made redundant, same as the many that went before them, aren’t they? I have every sympathy for those involved all the same, and hope freelance work is forthcoming.

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  3. KellyC

    To add to that, in a few weeks the Chron will have only two reporters left, and no newsdesk. JP bosses should be thoroughly ashamed of themselves for deliberately destroying these newspapers, which until a few years ago were still selling 20,000 every night. They were guinea pigs in the failed evening-to-weekly experiment and now they’re going to be part of the ‘no photographers’ experiment which will undoubtedly also fail. It’s all so very sad.

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  4. Northern Snapper

    “reporters taking photos on their phones”… From their desks I assume?

    Report this comment

  5. Bluestringer

    What?

    NO staffers across the whole Midlands region?

    This so-called “publishing” company is an embarrassing joke.

    Report this comment

  6. P45

    For JP Midland snappers this is very old news. We’ve known since last year that our jobs were going. Most were ‘encouraged’ to apply for voluntary redundancy. Those that stood their ground, were given compulsory.
    This UGC Highfield & Co vision will quite possibly spell the end for these two papers. Expecting the readership to submit their own content, then having the gall to sell it back to them, is quite frankly, dumb! Our dwindling readership are not stupid. JP top brass seem to think they are.
    Feedback from the readers is of their disbelief and disgust. These once-proud publications that they bought every day are now a weekly shadow of their former selves. Reap what you sow.
    I, for one, will be glad to leave the JP ship of fools come March.

    Report this comment

  7. Confused

    Yes, good luck to JP snappers, who in most towns were the only contact the public had with their ‘local’ paper and yet maintained a spirit of professionalism and good humour despite the rain, snow, cold, heavy camera bags, wrong job times and addresses, no shows at photocalls, after hours call outs, missed lunches, weekends…

    It will be interesting to see how a positive spin is put on this.

    ‘Ever fancied being a press photographer – your local paper is now giving you, our readers, the chance of a lifetime as we improve (scratch that) re-focus (geddit?) our service to readers…’

    And the country should prepare itself for more bad news in the coming weeks.

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  8. Me, Myself & I

    I feel very sorry those stood their ground and where made redundant anyway, but surely they should have seen it coming and just accepted the enhanced offer. I wonder if they will now receive less?

    Meanwhile, i’ve seen elsewhere those who wanted out, turned down, whilst others who wanted to stay forced to go. The enhanced redundancy offer wasn’t really open to all-comers it seems.

    Finally, JP Cost Cut Victim. Can we please cut the bitterness? If some Photographers are getting their VR payout on enhanced terms well good look to them I say. Why would you even question that. You seem to harbor some kind of perverse loyalty to JP. Time to wean yourself of it’s withered teat methinks. It’s not healthy.

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  9. LOL

    When your biggest rival is small hyper-local sites that rely on community contribution, mirroring them is the worst thing to do.
    There is no now differentiation between what JP offers and what any keen resident or residents’ association website puts out.

    Report this comment

  10. Scoop

    This is sad, but is just another example of how outmoded this industry is. Quality SHOULD matter when it comes to images, you would think, but all you have to do is look at any big site on the web to know that they are more interested in immediacy than quality. Someone posts a barely watchable video on youtube, it’s lifted to another news site, and that’s most people satisfied. They move on. There’s so much else to do.
    By the time a quality photograph, taken by staff, has been used, the story is yesterday’s news.
    Blame the user as much as JP.

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  11. LOL

    When your biggest rival is small hyper-local sites that rely on community contribution, mirroring them is the worst thing to do.
    There is now no differentiation between what JP offers and what any keen resident or residents’ association website puts out.

    Report this comment

  12. jk, bristol

    Same thing happened in Bristol. Now we are all freelancers. I think staff photographers are an important part of a paper. I think as a staffer your prepared to give a bit more which ultimately benigits the paper. There loss! But ours too.

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  13. Blurry Future, South Midlands

    This is Ashley Highfield’s digital future. Bad photos handled by those NOT in the know. Here’s a recent example lead story from the Leamington Courier website, one of those Johnson’s newspapers dumping their dedicated team of photographers:-

    http://www.leamingtoncourier.co.uk/news/local-news/further-talks-as-new-town-plan-for-south-warwickshire-is-scaled-down-1-5808772

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  14. Truth will out

    JP are certainly doing a demolition job on journalism, but I feel some people need to get real over photography.
    Gone are the days when the snapper retired into his dark room and produced, by magic, black and white pictures.
    Today, the fact is that most of the public can produce usable photographs suitable for newspapers. The camera itself does all the technical lighting etc and things like cropping and background are largely common sense.
    Newspaper pictures were never meant to be works of art, and newsy subjects like major fires often look more dramatic if they are grainy or even slightly of focus.
    If you look at so many photographs from the “golden age” of the regional press they are mostly boring shots of groups of people at various functions around town. “Unimaginative” is not a strong enough word to describe these offerings.
    The worst thing journalists can do is under-estimate the intelligence of their readers.
    The Internet has made people far more technically minded than they ever were in the past and there are all sorts of places where you can learn about photography for free.

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  15. Mike, Stroud

    “a review of how photographic content is generated”? What’s to review? It involves a time served professional, a good quality camera and a properly put together newspaper in which to publish. Someone at Johnson has lost sight of these details I fancy.

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  16. TR

    Not surprising after seeing the design of the papers change a few months back. My favourite title used to have huge photos across the paper with the text fitted inside – it looked great.

    Now the templates are so ugly there just isn’t the room for them. Most of the pix are so small now that you can’t make out who’s in them!

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  17. Blurry Future, South Midlands

    With reference to the above comment, several minutes later the offending image on the Leamington Courier website was removed ….. point made!

    Report this comment

  18. P45

    JP will be giving the same ‘enhanced’ package to compulsory as those given VR.

    Report this comment

  19. Disgruntled Toggy

    Reporters could help photographers (and reducing their own workload and keeping standards high) by refusing to take pictures on their phones or even feigning ignorance to the mechanics of phone photography to avoid being sent on jobs. Thirty years ago there would have been a strike if a reporter even thought about taking pictures!

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  20. JP Cost Cut Victim

    Me, Myself & I … I’m sorry to see you find me bitter and worse, having some loyalty, albeit perverse, to JP. You are mistaken.

    With regard to the specific redundancies we are referring to here, you question whether those who did not volunteer will now receive less redundancy. (What do you think?) But that is my point. ALL the staff are losing their jobs, so where is the ‘voluntary’ aspect of these redundancies? As I previously said, those involved have my sympathy, not just yours. I merely question the distinction between enhanced VR and compulsory redundancy in this instance. It highlights the quality of management at JP, where they cut costs on one hand yet spend where they needn’t on the other.

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  21. Jeremy Deacon

    Wow. Shocking news.

    Report this comment

  22. Scribbler

    Having seen at first hand the devastation being wreaked at JP offices, and the subsequent decline in circulation at a number of weekly newspapers, I do despair at the slash-and-burn tactics employed by those at the top of the tree. They, of course, always seem to justify their existence while doing away with the very people who were the heart and soul of local newspapers. How very sad.

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  23. LongGone, Yorkshire-ish

    So, the policy of self-assisted suicide continues at JP.
    Rarely has blind commercial ambition brought such disastrous results for all (beyond the boardroom, that is) concerned.
    The UK is now littered with the barely functioning husks of once great titles that thrived for decades until these hapless predators got involved.
    People are meant to be at either end of the newspaper cycle and day by day they are less in number at both ends.
    Shame on you, JP

    Report this comment

  24. hacker

    Truth will out – “groups of people at various functions” has been the backbone of regional journalism since presses began printing. Unimaginative you may think it, but it is the bread and butter of what papers do (did).

    Report this comment

  25. fed up fred, edinburgh

    No suprise JP have never rated the photographers value to the newspaper industry.

    In Scotland they made 21 snappers redundant just before xmas!
    They were told there would be some freelance work with terrible rates…and oh if you want to use our cameras, cars, laptops we will charge you a small fee deducted form your already low rate!

    Report this comment

  26. Alistair Fuller

    Such action will have major repercussions on the publishing industry as a whole. There will be no paid journalists. Just bots re-summarizing poor quality bad content and bad phoneography. Then the advertisers will walk as the publics interest feigns.

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  27. Enough Is Enough, Coventry

    Sad. It seems the Trinity Mirror disease has spread to other organisations.

    We did the same thing here a couple of years ago. To be fair, we’ve made it work. But relying on sent-in images and the goodwill of our one remaining photographer took quite some time to adjust to.

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  28. oldhack

    Perhaps JP could one day state what they see as the future of the newspaper industry (if, indeed, it has one at all!).
    No photographers, no (dedicated) subs and a skeleton staff of deskbound reporters whose main role is to handle the written tripe supplied by “citizen journalists” is not the recipe for a vibrant Press.
    The major casualties in all this are quality and the officialdom-challenging Press that once existed in the country.
    RIP true journalism.

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  29. Jake McNulty, Bucks,Oxon,Northants

    I am one of the 10 or so JP photographers who declined VR but was made redundant anyway. After 27 years service it’s a sad ending. I agree with nearly all the comments so far but cannot afford to carry bitterness around permanently. My main points are, press photography is a hard won skill, for me quality is all important, snappers are the only real people our readers can thank, moan at and ask favours of, face to face. We are photographers, videographers, news gatherers, reader generated picture repairers and ambassadors and will be hard if not impossible to replace. I will be going freelance (Jake McNulty Photography 07754 148222 advert) and expect that JP will use my skills on that basis. Good luck to all my colleagues!

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  30. UnhappySnapper

    Every time I read stories like this (all to often these days) I just shake my head at the photographers are treated by their bosses. Trusted, experienced, professionals with invaluable knowledge and contacts thrown on the scrap-heap in favour of some guy from the local camera club with a DSLR kit from Jessops who thinks he’s a photographer because the paper published one of his pictures of a duck on the letters page. Sad times…

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  31. griffiths, herefordshire

    jack the lad. Another sad story but this is another sign of times. The question is would you advise a daughter or son to join the profession ? Publishers do need to be pofitable but JP have gone over the top .Good luck to the photographers who are going freelance , but I suggest forget local newspapers and take up another profession.

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  32. SC

    @ Truth will out. I disagree with your analysis. Darkroom ‘magic’ was only part of the press photographers’ art. The larger part was being in the right place, taking the picture at the right time, with good composition and lighting, all skills which are human and cannot be automatically done by a machine.

    You say “The camera itself does all the technical lighting etc and things like cropping and background are largely common sense.”

    Wrong. The camera can do automatic exposure, though there are always exceptional situations that fool even the more sophisticated exposure systems. But exposure does not equal lighting; if you were a professional photographer you would know that. It’s the photographer that sees the lighting. The camera is blind and just tries to produce an exposure from a certain level of light, whatever the form and quality and style of that lighting.

    And while you might think that backgrounds and cropping are common sense, they are a common fault with amateur pictures, particularly backgrounds.

    Newspaper pictures generally look better if they are sharp, with a good tonal range rather than murky and not too noisy (the digital equivalent of grain).

    “boring shots of groups of people at various functions around town.” was what some papers wanted, on the basis that the more faces and names you get into the paper, the more people will buy that copy.

    “Unimaginative” was as much due to the wishes of those giving directions as to what pictures were wanted as to those taking them.

    “The worst thing journalists can do is under-estimate the intelligence of their readers.” A fair proportion of readers want to be pictured in their paper, particularly younger people.

    “The Internet has made people far more technically minded than they ever were in the past and there are all sorts of places where you can learn about photography for free.” But it’s about much more than technical aspects, and there is no substitute for the experience which is being lost by getting rid of so many professional photographers.

    And we are not only the eyes of the paper, but usually the representatives/ambassadors too as reporters are usually unable to leave their desks and report from the actual location.

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  33. Lucky Jim, Midlands

    In my 40 years in journalism, I’ve come across a few excellent press photographers…men and women who put thought, imagination and effort into their work, and produce great results.
    Equally, I’ve come across lazy, shabby, cynical, talentless time-servers who point and click and produce rubbish pictures. The latter group are usually the same people who whine about quality, professionalism and the absolute inability of anyone, other than a press photographer, to take a good picture.
    You dug your own graves, guys.

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  34. JP Cost Cut Victim

    Totally agree with Jake and UnhappySnapper. The photographers have been treated in a similar way to designers. Their skills have not been valued. A camera does not a photographer make!

    Similarly, a design suite on your PC doesn’t make you a graphic designer. The creativity is in the head, not the hands: imaginative layout, use of colour, appropriate font/typography and headlines/copywriting etc.

    Just as we saw (from Blurry Future) how poor JP photos may well be in the near future, today we see poor adverts that are merely fillers. The PC, just like the camera, is the tool. The creativity is in the head. The skill sets of both are no longer appreciated by JP and their products are now the poorer for it.

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  35. Ex-JP Editor, South Yorkshire

    Just when I thought I had seen it all from JP. Talk about shooting yourself in the foot. Do they not have ANY long-term vision to actually IMPROVE their products (and revenue) in the longer-term, rather than just save money in the very short-term??

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  36. Bob the Bulk Sale Builder

    JP cost cut victim probably only became the aforementioned because he was happier facing the abyss. Future proofing this industry sadly lacking in everything he/she propagates.

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  37. JP Cost Cut Victim

    Bob – You are incorrect.

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  38. Stretched journo, South

    Yet another job added to the ever-growing JP journalist workload. JP think that the few remaining journalists can write news, produce full length features, take and edit videos, upload stories to the internet, take their own photos, produce content for social media, sub their own work, answer the phones, man the newsdesk, oversee and edit the community submitted work (which is often incomprehensible, badly written and full of legal black holes) as well as being the ‘heart of the community’. What a joke. When are the NUJ going to do something? Yes changes needed to happen but this is a step too far. JP should be reviewing the pay packages at the top before they lose the last remaining readers by cutting so hard at the company’s ‘heart’ and it’s main selling point (from JP research).

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  39. Truth will out

    JP cost cut victim says: “The photographers have been treated in a similar way to designers”.
    But the point is that readers do not buy newspapers to admire a fancy design. A lot of designers can get, well, let’s say carried away with their creations.
    When newspapers started to lose their core product, ie news and adverts, editors started going in for stylish layouts. But the reader couldn’t care less if what he paid for wasn’t in the product.
    One person’s idea of a good design is to somebody else a dog’s dinner. It’s a matter of personal idiosyncrasy….not something that is going to sell a newspaper.
    There are general rules that need to be followed, but design should never become a core issue

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  40. Truth will out

    In reply to what hacker wrote about my comment regarding regional newspaper photographers taking group shots of people at local functions:
    Yes, I agree with hacker that these were the backbone of papers for many years. Even though they were rather unimaginative, they filled a purpose in the past. But today everybody has a camera. Children of nine and ten are making videos of their school productions. When the local newspaper comes along and takes a class group shot and puts it in next week’s issue, the kids couldn’t care less about buying the paper to see the photo.
    When the recent floods smashed up the sea wall around our way, neighbours went on social media sites within hours to view the damage.
    By the time the local weekly was published, everybody had forgotten about it (and there was no smashed up seawall in it anyway).
    I don’t think group shots can sell newspapers like they did in 1950.
    .

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  41. P45

    Looks like Lucky Jim and Roy Greenslade could be perfect bed-fellows.

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  42. Truth will out

    Once again I must defend my comment, this time against SC ( do you realise I am not getting any work done?).
    Yes, I have been a professional photographer for newspapers (note the s).
    I’m not saying there is no skill in regional press photography (far from it), but it can be overstated.
    All the broadcast media, national newspapers, as well as sites on the Internet use amateur photographs every day.
    Any reporter who hasn’t an eye for a photograph shouldn’t be in the profession (yes, I’ve been a reporter, too).
    The technical bit is easy.
    It’s like printing. What took me a five-year apprenticeship to learn in the 1970s can now be mastered in a matter of weeks by any 16-year-old with computers.
    Sad for my pride, maybe, but it’s the way of the world.
    We must look forward, not backwards. Bite the bullet.

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  43. JP Cost Cut Victim

    Truth will out … designers are important in retaining the advertisers that are vital to the newspapers and gaining the new. (You rightly say, adverts are a “core” product). I was not referring to editorial design, but graphic design. The product/retail adverts have to stand alone and work for the advertisers, or they will not advertise again. It’s not about “fancy” design, it’s about good design that works.

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  44. PJ Robbo

    Lets face it, Newsquest is next company to give the photographers the chop, one does it and gets away with it,then the others follow,so very sadly, the Newsquest snappers will have to pack their bags very soon because you won’t be there in 2015.

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  45. Truth Will Out

    Okay, JP cost cut victim. Thanks for the clarification.

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  46. JP Cost Cut Victim

    My fault for the lack of clarity.

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