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.