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Further job cuts cap ‘annus horribilis’ for photographers

A regional publisher has been accused by union bosses of trying to make photographers “extinct” after further job cuts were revealed.

Newsquest is cutting photographic staff at its newspapers in North London by from six to three, while the group is also consulting on a reorganisation which will mean a number of staff leaving its Midlands titles before the New Year.

It follows a spate of photographic redundancies across Johnston Press’s regional divisions over recent months and others in some Local World businesses.

The cuts have led the National Union of Journalists to describe 2014 as an “annus horribilis” for photographers.with national organiser Laura Davison warning the cuts could lead to the “extinction of the whole job category .

The North London changes were revealed in a letter written to staff by group editor Tim Jones which has since been made public by the NUJ.

In it, he said the move to cut staff photographers in the capital was owing to “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.”

The company has also confirmed that two staffers will depart from Newsquest Oxfordshire and Wiltshire – affecting the Swindon Advertiser, Wiltshire Gazette & Herald and Wiltshire Times.

And in the Midlands four photographer jobs, one full-time and three part-time, will be reduced to one full-time equivalent with a new 30-mile patch created between Dudley and Alcester.

The move will affect the daily Worcester News as well as number of weekly titles previously overseen by former Stourbridge Division group editor Paul Walker, who quit his role last week.

Elsewhere it was revealed earlier this month that the chief photographer of the Northern Echo, Richard Doughty, and deputy chief photographer Andy Lamb, had left the company.

In November HTFP reported that York daily The Press was axeing the role of picture editor and reducing the number of staff photographers from four to three.

Two staff photographers at weekly sister titles the Keighley News and Craven Herald, Bob Smith and Steve Garnett, were also made redundant as part of the review.

A spokesman for the NUJ said: “These companies have been using trainee reporters to take pictures without providing them with technical or health and safety training. One Newsquest title is regularly using a nine-year-old boy to provide sports photographs.

“Already mistakes are being made: one reporter asked to take a picture of somebody leaving a court snapped the wrong person.”

Chris Morley, NUJ Northern and Midlands organiser, said: “The all-out assault by newspaper companies against their staff photographers is in danger of wiping out a whole, critical and valuable skillset from the newsroom as we know it.

“One company’s crazy willingness to purge some of its greatest ambassadors to the public is being picked up and copied with indecent speed by another, all greedy for short-term savings at the fag-end of the year.

“In the latest mania, Newsquest has reached new levels of brutality in the supposed season of goodwill.

“It has put livelihoods to the sword in the space of a fortnight, from the first shock staff announcement to the letter telling our members they are getting their P45.”

Both Peter John, group editor of Newsquest’s Worcester Division, and Gary Lawrence, group editor of the Swindon Advertiser, Wiltshire Gazette & Herald and Wiltshire Times, have declined to comment further on the proposals.  Tim Jones has yet to respond to requests for a comment.