Almost Half of All Newspaper Photographer Jobs Have Disappeared, Census Finds


If you’ve been paying attention to the professional photography industry, you no doubt understand that times are tough and likely to continue getting tougher for newspaper photographers.

This year’s newsroom census by the American Society of News Editors quantifies the damage, finding that U.S. newspapers are employing 43 percent fewer photographers, videographers and artists than they were in 2000. That’s three times the rate at which newspaper reporters (not exactly a rock-solid career category at the moment) are losing their jobs.


Cuts have ranged from wholesale elimination of in-house photography departments, such as the Chicago Sun-Times’ notorious ax-wielding last May, to piecemeal reductions, such as the one announced last month by the Atlanta Journal Constitution.

Factors include the democratization of camera technology — the Sun-Times infamously decided it could replicate much of its professional photographer output with shots generated by iPhone-wielding reporters — and an increased reliance on user-generated content.

Also, photographer jobs tended to be tightly held, resulting in highly paid (relatively speaking) senior positions that become tempting targets when budgets need to be trimmed.

(via Pew Research Center)

Image credit: Unemployed Benefits Expired by Blue Jay Day and Newspaper photographer interviews… by Greg Thompson/U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

  • Carl Meyer

    Ubiquity is a better word to describe the phenomena of having cameras everywhere.

  • MMielech

    And, this just in. Hundreds of Eire canal employees have been out of work for a century. They’re standing in line next to all of the work horse groomers and keepers at the UE office.

  • ennuipoet

    This would be a relevant comment if the canal builders were being replaced by people who owned shovels and thought that made them qualified to engineer a canal.

  • MMielech

    Oh, sorry, I’ll type slower.

    I meant all of the employees who worked on the canal once it was finished.
    I was trying to avoid the “buggy whip makers” cliche, but, I guess I should have used that.

  • ennuipoet

    Ah, the newspaper medium as a whole versus photographers.

  • tyrohne

    Time to pick up a new trade. I have been an amatuer photographer since being in Jr High in the late 80’s and while I love(d) it, it never struck me as exactly “good work”. I’m sure it was for some folks, don’t get me wrong, but I did specialize (In computer engineering) and while I hate coding and all the garbage it entails, it enables me to support a family and have some spectacular hobbies in addition to a nice vacation home in my late 30’s.

    We can all wail and gnash our teeth and the decline of print and photography or recognize it is what it is and move on. If a photographer is so one trick that all he/she can do is take pictures for a paper or be unemployed than I’d wager he/she isn’t very marketable anyway.

    If you want to do something about it quit reading the interwebs. Go buy a paper.

  • MMielech

    Well, newspapers first, photographers second. You really have to face the fact that the I Phone 5 has a better camera than most pros carried ten years ago. Sorry. It’s pretty much downhill from here.

  • Jesús, el latino

    Man you hit me with a reality hammer!!! But you’re right…

  • Ralph Hightower

    Yea, the local paper is asking photographers to cover local events and festivals for publication on their web site. In return, they will post your name under the photographs that you contributed.
    They do have specific requirements: they must be taken with a DSLR.

  • Pete Ferling

    Have to agree. Even though I was a mechanical engineer, I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to become the staff multimedia developer/photographer. It was the dream job that started with 4×5 film cameras, then transitioning to digital. I ran a full time studio, flying all over the country and shooting all kinds of product and location. A run that lasted 12 years and allowed me to raise a family of five and live in comfort.

    Two months before the hammer fell on our department, I was visited by a new sales rep whom asked for advice on how to “break in”. I told him don’t bother and to stay in sales.

    I have a military background and do security work, (and some jobs pay surprising well). While I still shoot, there simply isn’t enough work to support us.

    I’ve convinced my son to change his studies from graphic design to IT. He likes computers and tech, and he much happier about it (to my relief).

  • bikeamtn

    This shift in lowering the bar is broader in scope then just the single frame image maker photojournalist. To my eye and ears, a general decline in editorial excellence is happening in broadcast news as well as station owner wallets tighten down the seasoned-skilled, worthy professionals are switch-out in favor of non-benefit, substandard salaried grad’s and interns hungry to take their turn at playing AP, Camera/Audio, Editor/Web-Master rolled into one job description. In the process, I witness news cast after news cast (of different stations) constantly dropping the ball one way or another with on scene reporters not having IFB and cursing as the TD takes the feed or the camera yells “yeah, your on” as they go ‘live’ or even the TD taking ‘back’ in a segment (or that could also be the fault of an automation glitch do to bad programming, yet another HR caused dilemma).
    For me the wondering senseless segment video and/or audio-glitched Pro-tools edit is especially entertaining and so on. One primetime programming was so bad, I had to jump on Twitter to thank the station for the entertaining comedy spot when they dropped the last 3-mins of a network show and switch to a local program. I though that the network should know about that brainless act (for there was hell to pay). What can I say after 10 years with the networks but, if you don’t know what the profession is, then you need to get out of the business and just sale ice cream.

  • Michael D

    As an ex-newspaper photographer, I confess to being part of the problem: when newspapers started being full-time pawns of the lying propaganda wing of the US government (note, for instance, the NYT+Judith Miller+Iraq War) and stopped doing real investigative news, I stopped buying them, and found better sources on the web. I’m please to note that I’m not the only one.

    Noticing how many papers have taken the government’s side against Edward Snowdon, I am pleased to be part of print journalism’s well-deserved death.

  • markz

    ditto, I spent more than 3 years in the mid/late 80’s working full time in pro photography/media businesses after dropping out of uni (college)…

    even then the bosses thought the pro photographers were fair game for undercutting by any means they could. I was supposed to be a dark room/reprographics tech but got sent out on more location shoots than the in house photogs, most of the real estate/car/truck/motorcycle/plant & machinery in the auction catalogues we made in that time were shot by me and a receptionist. the pro’s were only hired and sent out on the “action” shots of high value goods (shots of a Rolls Royces or a helicopter or a corporate jet) or VIP client portraits.

    I worked out I was doing between 10 and 20 hours unpaid overtime a week and was probably never going to get on to the “pro” gravy train or even at least given a job title of “photographer” so went back to uni to get my Business & IT degrees swallowed my pride and accepted I was never going to be the next Rolling Stones staff photographer and cut code and built databases (and eventually came back to photography as a hobby)

  • superduckz

    Brutally honest but dead on.

  • markwall

    If the coding jobs started disappearing after you’d been coding professionally for 32 years, you’d be hard pressed at that age to go and pick up another occupation that would make ends meet. Good luck trying to marry off your last daughter and finish paying your last child’s college education, forget a vacation for the wife every two years. You’d find that you were pretty much “one trick” as well.

  • tyrohne

    well, see, I kind of planned for all that.. Like, way ahead of time…

    Let me introduce you to a new cat you may not know about.. His name was Aesop and he wrote a little story about an Ant and a Grasshopper… It still rings true thousands of years later.

    Do I have sympathy for those who managed to work 32 years, learn only one trade and not save for the surprising ‘happened overnight’ events of a child’s college education (just 18 short years to plan for!) a daughter’s marriage (assume marriage at the hare’s pace of 22 years and a reasonable cost of what ever you can afford) or my wife’s well deserved vacation every two years (a luxury, not a need)? (edit as an aside: Or hell, someone so obtuse as to not see the INTERNET and ubiquity of cameras might cause a shift in jobs. Even paper storage and shredding companies have shifted business models!)

    None. (assuming there wasn’t a catastrophe or great tragedy that caused financial ruin, then I have both sympathy and empathy)

    It’s not a free market’s fault you can’t adapt, didn’t plan, took vacations every two years instead of saving for your child’s education or daughter’s wedding. Those aren’t RIGHTS. Nobody is responsible for those things but me (or you as the case may be).

    We need a big dose of ‘grow the heck up’ in this country.

  • Ronald Morrison

    Yup! Lost 2 jobs to “Interns”. Guess free is better than paying someone to do quality work.