Newspaper photographers are a dying species. This article from The Guardian explains why newspapers are closing the shutters on staff photographers.
It mentions The Independent in England, the Daily Mirror and regional UK publisher Archant.
“Newspaper photographers are in retreat. Staff jobs are vanishing as publishers look for new ways to cut costs. National papers have gradually been reducing numbers in recent years. Many titles have only a handful.”
The same applies in regional Australia, although I’m not sure about metropolitan newspapers. In fact, The Advertiser in Adelaide seems to have a healthy complement of staff photographers, but I wonder how long that will be the case.
When I started with country newspapers in 1986, most had staff photographers.
I worked with the talented Eric Yeates at the Bairnsdale Advertiser. He taught me how to use a camera and even let me into the dark room to learn the mystery of how pictures were developed. The unique smell remains a clear memory.
Eric had a great eye for detail. He taught this to me, along with the eternal message: “fill the frame”. He also advised some parameters for manual photography using flash, which I never forgot.
The first significant threat to the photographic craft was one-hour processing. It became possible to get film developed offsite, and easier to use contributed pictures.
Then came digital photography and finally the insatiable internet.
When I worked at the Gippsland Times in 1988 there were two staff photographers. As far as I know, there are none today.
The daily Kalgoorlie Miner had two full-time staff photographers and a couple of casuals when I was there. I hope that’s still the case.
In regional South Australia however, the only regional newspaper with a staff photographer that I’m aware of, is the Mount Barker Courier. And that knowledge is several years old.
I can understand that publishers want to save money. Most journalists can take adequate pictures, some better than others. Readers can and do contribute pictures, especially of junior sport and social events.
But a good photographer is priceless. They know how to compose a front page picture, how to engage subjects and how to create. Excellent photos sell newspapers.
I always valued good photographers and I think the newspaper industry is poorer without them.
The photographers themselves are now taking wedding pictures.
As one commenter on The Guardian post remarked:
“Anyone can snap a photo of a burning bus. Not everyone can consistently make something boring look visually compelling. That’s the job of a professional photojournalist. They have the ability to make storytelling images all the time no matter the situation, especially when the image isn’t staring you in the face.”
While the loss in quality may not be immediately noticeable, it will be over time and readers will feel that newspapers offer them less value.
- For some light relief, visit this site for Angry people in local newspapers.