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Staff photographers facing axe in JP restructure

Regional publisher Johnston Press has confirmed that it is to make “a number” of staff photographer posts compulsorily redundant in the Midlands and Scotland.

The National Union of Journalists issued a statement yesterday claiming that 24 photographers at the company were on a “hit list” of compulsory job cuts.

Although JP has not confirmed the exact figure, it has revealed that some photographers’ jobs are at risk as a result of plans to change the way photographic content is generated in parts of the business.

The union had raised concerns about photographers’ work being replaced by pictures from social media and those sent in by readers and it has also voiced fears that reporters will have to take on some of the photographers’ duties.

A statement issued by the company said:  “A number of photographic roles have been placed at risk in some companies within Johnston Press.

“The decision has been made at local, operating company level and the proposal to change the way photographic content is generated affects some areas of the Midlands and Scotland.

“Local managers are making these difficult decisions to help ensure a sustainable, multi-platform future for local journalism. The company is committed to being as supportive as possible in making this transition to a successful digital future.

“Consultation is under way with affected staff. In conjunction with this proposed restructuring, a review of applications through the recent voluntary redundancy programme is still ongoing.”

Johnston Press launched its voluntary redundancy programme with enhanced terms in September and the deadline for applications has now closed.

The union claims that JP had previously been encouraging photographers to leave by way of the voluntary scheme.

NUJ deputy general secretary Barry Fitzpatrick said: “This decision by the company represents a wanton disposal of the local knowledge and skills of staff photographers working in England and Scotland.

“The notion that these roles can be replaced by social media and multi-skilling reporters is a fallacy. Quality content is defined by the quality of pictures and captions of images used, which only professional photographers provide. This spells the death knell for the staff photographer.

“Staff photographers act as one of the few points of direct contact that most local newspapers have with the local community and help fly the flag for their title.

“Without this interaction, yet again the profile of those newspapers diminishes in the community they are seeking to serve.”

He added that using social media for photos was “a risky strategy” and would result in mistakes being made.

The union said JP had refused to tell it how many voluntary redundancies would be made.

The publisher’s interim management statement released yesterday said it had cut costs by more than £30m this year to date as it continued to tackle its £306m debt.

43 comments

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  • November 13, 2013 at 5:57 pm
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    The quality of many pictures used that have been sent in is pathetic and an embarrassment to staff. JP motto is if it is cheap enough it is good enough. Take a look at your own papers top management!

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  • November 13, 2013 at 7:04 pm
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    Nice to ‘officially’ read this on here. No memo from JP – typical!

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  • November 13, 2013 at 7:20 pm
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    All the photographers at the Star,Sheffield, are being axed..along with some at the Derbyshire Times and Doncaster Free Press.
    Management has intimated that freelance contracts may be available……..

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  • November 13, 2013 at 8:18 pm
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    There will be ZERO photographers at the alledged ‘Britains oldest newspaper’ covering, Rutland, Stamford, Bourne and the Deepings.

    One can only assume that they will be giving the paper away for free? Because whom is going to pay for user generated poor written opinionated content flaggened by a blurry wonky picture?

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  • November 13, 2013 at 8:41 pm
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    One of the essentials of new media is good visuals. Without good photographers, this is just not going to happen.
    Most supplied photos are instantly recognisable as being of poorer resolution and composition. People will notice and turn away.
    And as for getting photos from social media? There are numerous complaints about the practice already when the person is unwilling. It may not be illegal but it can sow ill-will – just what the profession needs in these hard times!

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  • November 13, 2013 at 9:05 pm
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    The end for local newspapers must be near. Who wants to read a paper full of poor quality photographs pulled from Social Media or taken on an iPhone by a reporter. Whoever made this decision must be a bean counter with no idea of how to run newspapers. Without good content the circulation will drop even further and eventually there will be no future.

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  • November 13, 2013 at 9:17 pm
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    I wonder if the Sports Reporters are going to be covering all the Major Football,Rugby,Horse Racing,Athletics,Jnr Football etc,etc,etc and that also goes to any News Reporter who will have to turn out at all hours day and night in Hail,Rain and Snow just to satisfy some share holders whos only interest is how much can I make rather than produce a quality newspaper,look to the board of directors for the lack of leadership,it seems someone somewhere in JPS has allowed a debt to become uncontrolable,has that person or persons been FIRED,if not why not.

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  • November 13, 2013 at 9:39 pm
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    This whole sorry episode has only led to ill-feeling from those affected and complete demoralisation amongst those left at what remains of Johnston Press.

    Senior management have lost their minds if they think that once-renowned publications can continue to produce a quality product by this idiotic and pathetic plan to bin talented folk and use Joe Public as a ‘free’ resource.

    A severe lack of communication and information, from a clearly spineless leadership, is both a disgrace and an embarrassment to proper JP hard-working folk. For once, be honest and let us know what the eventual plan is (if there ever was one). Stop winging it.

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  • November 14, 2013 at 8:28 am
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    As a former JP reporter, I was lucky to work with some incredibly talented snappers in my time and it’s very sad indeed that those who follow on won’t get the same opportunity.
    That aside, this business “plan” makes no sense. On the one hand, journalists are being told that their titles need to do all they can to make themselves a better alternative to blogs and other online news sources in order to stay relevant.
    Then on the other, the very things that would seemingly enable them to accomplish that- i.e professional journalists and photographers producing a high standard of copy and images you can’t find everywhere else- are being axed or allowed to leave.
    Add to this the truly Orwellian level of spin being peddled by the company to its own staff on a weekly basis (many of whom have made a good living from spotting the PR bull from the real story) and I really do feel for those working at what are stll some really good newspapers.

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  • November 14, 2013 at 8:33 am
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    work in a JP office and our toggys read about this on here. Nothing from JP management to us

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  • November 14, 2013 at 9:18 am
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    “Yeah, that’s a good plan – let’s get rid of the photographers. By the way, I think we need to take on a few more bosses on £80,000 a year. Sounds good? Glad you agree. Let’s get on it. And don’t forget to announce their appointments on the staff newsletter. We don’t want our employees to think they’re being keep in the dark, do we?”

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  • November 14, 2013 at 9:45 am
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    There are some very bitter comments on here. It’s a disgrace that people are being put in fear for their jobs, and having their families caused great distress, because nobody in JP is discussing these plans with the staff who will be affected.

    I’ve just checked the share price which is 14.25p, The announcement by Ashley yesterday, about how well JP is doing digitally, hasn’t made any difference. Time will tell whether investors will like the news about £7m of property on the market and the firm dispensing with even more jobs.

    Perhaps investors are now seeing that the cuts are too deep, have gone on for too long and are not in the interests of the company.

    If you want to have user generated content, OK, but those of us who are veterans in the industry know that once you start correcting bad grammar, spelling and unchecked facts, Joe Public takes his bat home. I’m in favour of village correspondents but only as a small amount of added extra to the professional news gathering.

    I know what it’s like to be in fear for my job, we had it year after year after year. My heart goes out to all those affected and I hope JP does the decent thing and briefs editors this morning about exactly what is needed so that they can have the necessary conversations with staff.

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  • November 14, 2013 at 9:47 am
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    Sub up North is a healthy dose of common sense. He should be on the editorial board.

    Websites only work well with high quality stories and pictures.
    If you get rid of all the good writers and snappers from the newspapers
    where does high quality material for the web come from?
    Not difficult to work out, is it?

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  • November 14, 2013 at 10:19 am
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    News photography is a skill. Those who do it are professionals. To suggest their role can be fulfilled by people snapping shots on mobile phones is an insult, just as the suggestion that, in future the only role for trained and committed journalists will be, and I quote Mark Edwards, JP editorial director for the Midlands, talking about the experimental Bourne Hypocrisy, to “curate submitted content ” which will make up 75 per cent of the ‘newspaper.’ I work for an excellent weekly newspaper, that along with many others owned by JP is being subjected to death by 1,000 cuts. It is sad to see these once proud publications, that in some cases have served their communities for more than 100 years, survived two World Wars and a myriad of social change, being treated with such disdain.

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  • November 14, 2013 at 11:13 am
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    Can’t believe it’s taken so long for this to appear – togs have been ‘encouraged’ to apply for voluntary redundancy on the basis that if they don’t, they’ll be going anyway.
    It’s been rumbling for a few weeks and many have got leaving dates now and will be gone by the year’s end.
    All very sad. Not just togs either – receptionists are also going and the doors closing to the public for good.
    Now the buildings are going too but £8m isn’t much of a dent in what JP owes and when the bankers come calling this is what happens.

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  • November 14, 2013 at 11:32 am
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    You couldn’t make it up. JP are dumbing down their papers, taking away anything that is quality and local and trying to kid readers and advertisers that they want to buy into expensive papers that are full of commercial trash, bingo, online dating, ad features and reader content. And they have a few ambitious hired guns to drive this kind of thing through and progress-chase less and less editors. I really want to see local papers survive and prosper, but I really think JP have now lost the plot. I hope I am wrong. Many local papers survive on their brilliant and hard working togs but it seems that all that is coming to an end. Good pics are too expensive for the bosses in designer shoes.

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  • November 14, 2013 at 12:33 pm
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    I wondered why it had taken so long to get round to photographers. Another short-term fix that will have long-term repercussions. This continual devaluing of the papers is simply killing the company. Attempting to clear the debt previous chiefs saddled the company with is admirable – but there will be nothing left when this eventually happens.
    To get people to read/buy your paper, visit your website, use your app etc etc, you have to make it worth their while.
    Quite simply, you need talented, professional people to produce entertaining, informative content relevant to the readers. The more staff you lose, the harder that becomes.
    JP is moving further away from its customers every day by producing error-ridden titles with irrelevant content and expecting people to pay more for it. Give all the titles a new design by all means, but the old adage holds true – you cannot polish a t*rd.
    (You can roll it in glitter, but that won’t fool anyone).

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  • November 14, 2013 at 12:42 pm
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    As for JPress workers being kept in the dark, its a joke. Thought they are meant to be discussing it with affected staff. I have to keep reading H.T.F.P to find out whats going on, guess they will let me have my leaving date when they can be bothered to get round to it!!!!

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  • November 14, 2013 at 12:43 pm
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    You cannot carry on providing less and less relevant content in your error-ridden titles while charging more for it.
    Content is king and you need talented, professional people to provide it. They cost money and the more people you lose, the harder it becomes to provide a relevant service – at least one that people are prepared to pay for…
    Hopefully JP chiefs will one day realise you simply cannot polish a t*rd. (You can roll it in glitter, but that won’t fool anyone for very long).

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  • November 14, 2013 at 12:48 pm
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    Nothing Johnston Press does is anything to do with producing better newspapers. Nothing anybody can say prevents JP channelling money to overpaid executives instead of investing in the core business. JP is not accountable to staff who it has run roughshod over. JP is so deep in debt because of previous mismanagement that if it were a lame horse it would be shot and put out of its misery.

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  • November 14, 2013 at 1:36 pm
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    I am embarrassed to be still working for this company. I am sick of apologising to readers for the state of the paper. This story has finally persuaded me to take voluntary redundancy. Although I suppose that’s exactly what JP wants.

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  • November 14, 2013 at 2:20 pm
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    With apologies to Pastor Niemoller..

    First JP came for the subs,
    and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a sub.

    Then JP came for the receptionists
    and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a receptionist.

    Then JP came for the photographers
    and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a photographer.

    Then they came for me,
    and there was no one left to speak for me.

    The light at the end of the JP tunnel has been turned off to save money.

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  • November 14, 2013 at 2:34 pm
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    I have to say that this is not surprising ‘news’ at all, JP have run our local paper into the ground getting rid of a long standing member who worked there from school and was acting editor and editor briefly he turned the paper round and increased revenues but even that wasn’t enough. It suited them to have an editor in overall charge of a number of papers, many of which have not had increased sales so wheres the logic in that? The quality of the publication is rubbish, articles are published with so many holes in them, when question a reporter told me that with only two reporters they don’t have enough time to fully research a story.
    The paper is barely readable, there are just two reporters and one photographer and the building where the paper has been for a generation is to be sold, seems to me the writings on the wall. JP is simply overstretching themselves, buying small papers then running them into the ground, slashing staff and selling its assets.
    Seems to me a stupid way to do business, people are dropping the paper in droves as are businesses.

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  • November 14, 2013 at 2:39 pm
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    Some really fantastic comments here from people who really know what it takes to produce a quality newspaper – journalists. It’s so sad that the people making the decisions about the future of our cherished papers don’t have a clue.

    Over the past few years I’ve seen our newspaper group’s staffing numbers cut by two thirds. We still produce the same number of papers but of course with cuts like that – which will only get worse following the latest redundancy round – the quality has inevitably suffered.

    It’s obvious to people trained to cut through corporate rubbish that directors are sucking the blood from our newspapers and lining their pockets while they still can, before leaving them on the scrapheap.

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  • November 14, 2013 at 3:15 pm
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    As a photographer for Johnston (press?)….I have been physically and verbally abused doing my job. I have worked in snow, hail, wind and rain. Have taken many a story back to the office. My work is complimented regularly. I am a professional and I earn less that 20K. I am good value. Can the brass on 80K+ really be worth 4 of me?

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  • November 14, 2013 at 3:30 pm
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    Don’t forget they are paying about 10% interest on the £306M loan + charges etc. Maybe the bosses should spend their time looking to get a better interest rate loan than axe all the photographers.

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  • November 14, 2013 at 4:32 pm
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    I look forward to a future of parish magazines published by Johnston Press …. not! I for one will not be taking any notice of their publications in the future, newspapers and websites fed with content by primarily amateurs will be of no interest or value. No doubt advertisers will realise this in due course. Here’s to all those hard working, underpaid photo journalists who are currently being shown the door …. to many in their communities they will have been the only human face of their respective newspapers now lost forever. Take note JP!

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  • November 14, 2013 at 4:48 pm
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    So, let’s get this straight. The JP vision is for readers in, for example, Northampton, to pay £1.10 for a paper on a Thursday which features blurry pictures ripped from Twitter which they’ve probably already seen and stories containing poorly-written quotes sourced from Facebook which they’ve already either read or ignored. Rather than being a ‘proper’ daily staffed by 10 news reporters, two on newsdesk and four snappers, it becomes a weekly (ludicrously coming out on the same day as the same company’s pre-existing freesheet and a rival freesheet) with four reporters, no newsdesk and no snappers. And this is progress? They may as well just give up now, the game’s up.

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  • November 14, 2013 at 5:25 pm
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    Within a few years drones will be sent up and out to cover events and most journos will be in homes for the bewildered and sad. Good times are over…

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  • November 14, 2013 at 8:34 pm
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    First the subs, then the photographers. Next up the news editors. Who needs ’em when all you are doing is ‘curating’ submitted ‘s***e, er, sorry, content?

    I’d advise you all to leave now, but there are no jobs. You’re f*****d like the rest of us.

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  • November 15, 2013 at 9:49 am
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    Games Up – a ‘proper’ daily staffed by ten news reporters? Even that level of staffing would have been considered derisory in the 1970s and possibly for a considerable period after that date.

    I still have the editorial staff list from the fairly modest regional evening paper I worked for in the early 1970s.

    Editor, deputy editor, news editor, deputy news editor, chief sub editor, seven or eight sub-editors, features editor, women’s page editor, fifteen head office news reporters, 17 district office reporters, six people in sport, three people in features, full-time librarian, copytakers – the editorial staff list contains 63 names. Just three photographers, however.

    Happy days indeed.

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  • November 15, 2013 at 1:16 pm
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    “First the subs, then the photographers. Next up the news editors.”
    Goner – you are a little behind the times.

    News editors went four years ago, shortly after the ad setters, studio staff, ad managers and the vast majority of subs in what was the first round of blood-letting.
    Just the managers left now and oh how we’ll all cheer when they finally go too.
    Don’t be dazzled by the offer of loads of freelance work post-redundancy either. In all but a few very rare instances that dries up as quickly as your p45 arrives.

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  • November 15, 2013 at 1:57 pm
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    Has anyone contacted the Spanish relaunch team? We’re going to have to pay them a few more hundred thousand with a mandate to redesign the templates for use with wonky, blurred, pixelated, low-quality pictures taken by drunken pub-goers on their Iphones! Remember folks Content is king!

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  • November 15, 2013 at 3:39 pm
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    Local newspapers will not be safe until the last sales rep MD has been hung with the guts of the last accountant.

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  • November 18, 2013 at 10:28 am
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    er, that’s hanged, please, not hung. Let’s have the grammar correct when we’re contemplating gratuitous violence.

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  • November 18, 2013 at 10:55 am
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    After this recent cull I am left wondering if JP have any strategy at all. I understand that they have to appease the shareholders and also the banks, but there comes a point when cutting too much is damaging. I suspect Ashley and his pals in senior management want to reach their targets so they can get their nice big bonuses. Ultimately, I doubt they really care what happens to the company, either way they will be alright. If what I read on http is true, some newsrooms have a few reporters left and that’s it. JP are clearly convinced that the way forward is to get Joe Public to do all the work for them for free. Not sure Joe will buy that!

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  • November 18, 2013 at 1:51 pm
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    This will boost the PR and News Agency sector. As reporters sit at their desks desperate to generate content, any email from a PR firm will be like Christmas. Expect to see more business articles about an estate agents hiring a new member of staff (perhaps a former photographer) or how a local engineering firm has switched to energy saving lightbulbs. These companies are ready to pay £150 upwards for a press release and photo. My advice for redundant photographers is make yourself known to them. Good luck.

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  • November 18, 2013 at 6:02 pm
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    Those of us old enough to remember the true value of a local newspaper are often accused of luddite tendencies when attacking the death knell of our industry.

    Far from decrying modern technology, photographers have embraced it and now deliver it, in a variety of formats, at lightning speed from camera to reader.

    Wedding photographers will know only too well that the advent of affordable digital equipment has resulted in a surge of ‘Uncle Bob’s’ covering weddings at ridiculous rates.

    The reason they know so well is that after the honeymoon is over the unhappy couple contact a true professional to see if their wedding photos can be recovered/corrected/salvaged, if they have anything at all.

    JP and others should note that when the honeymoon’s over and the dust has settled, they will be left with a dearth of talent that will be hard to replace as they further distance themselves from their readership.

    I doubt many executives at JP could recognise a well composed, correctly exposed and relevant image which is fine because they won’t be seeing too many of them in the near future!

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  • November 19, 2013 at 11:53 am
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    I can’t help feeling you’re all missing the bigger picture. JP no longer exists to produce newspapers, any more than most of its rivals do. It exists to manage the profitable liquidation of its own assets, which in a society where those with management ‘skills’ can move into any industry they fancy (unlike us poor mugs who took the trouble to acquire a trade) will guarantee lucrative new jobs in entirely unrelated businesses for those who suceed in pulling off this piece of executive legerdemain. Chairman of the Co-op Bank, for example.

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  • November 20, 2013 at 10:11 am
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    Why would an advertiser pay to put their ad into a paper or online when it is clear to see the publisher is using sub standard photography?
    It gives the impression the publisher does not value their ‘product’, so why should an advertiser or reader?
    Commercial suicide IMHO

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  • November 20, 2013 at 10:27 pm
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    Editors. Take a look at the pictures. Many are a disgrace. Why do you use them? Some professional pride is needed.

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  • November 29, 2013 at 6:53 am
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    It’s ok I’m going to run a newspaper company, clearly they’ll take any idiot with no experience and not a clue what he’s doing 😉

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