UK Newspaper Chain Follows in Sun Times Footsteps, Shutters All Photographer Jobs

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Britons tend to take their newspapers a bit more seriously than Yanks, but that hasn’t stopped a newspaper chain there from Chicago Sun-Timesing (yes, we verbed it!) its way to ignominy by firing its entire photography staff.

It’s unclear exactly how many photographers will hit the pavement as a result of the decision by Johnston Press, but the National Union of Journalists counts 24 at newspapers scattered across Scotland and the Midlands.

Faithfully following the script set by the Chicago Sun-Times last year, the axed professionals will be replaced by freelancers, reader-submitted photos and reporters with smartphones.


Jake McNulty, one of the photographers to get a pink slip, said in online comments that the writing was on the wall after several rounds of “voluntary” staff reductions. “After 27 years service, it’s a sad ending … but [I] cannot afford to carry bitterness around permanently.”

McNulty noted that with editorial staff already pared down and centralized, photographers were the only contact many readers had with their hometown newspaper. “Snappers are the only real people our readers can thank, moan at and ask favours of, face-to-face,” he explained. “We are photographers, videographers, news gatherers, reader generated picture repairers and ambassadors and will be hard if not impossible to replace.”

In what we’re sure is an entirely unrelated move, financial analysts on Monday lowered their rating on Johnston Press to “sell.”

(via Hold the Front Page via Poynter)

Image credits: Header photo courtesy of Johnston Press and “Unemployed men queued outside a depression soup kitchen…” courtesy of the U.S. National Archives

  • Don Davis

    I can only be thankful that my thirty-nine years of newspaper work is nearly at end….. voluntarily. “Just send in a smartphone pic, it’s good enough!” will send you over the edge sooner than later.

  • Clayton Finley

    Blah blah, just another pro photographer entitlement article.

  • Flyfisherman

    Completes the trend of newspapers not doing any real journalistic work.

  • Sean Walsh

    This is such a sad state of the times for photojournalists. Is that truly the mindset of your editors, that a smartphone snap is “good enough”. Why is “good enough” acceptable at all?
    Congrats on your voluntary retirement!

  • Renato Murakami

    Sad sign/last nail to the coffin in the end of journalism in print format.

    If reader submited photos and amateur photography are enough for newspapers, and if a newspaper does not consider photographers as part of their editorial staff, this just means that the news that will be produced there could be done and replicated anywhere else.

    This has been clear in some publications for sometime now, but perhaps not as blatantly exposed.
    It’s to be expected in some newsrooms for something like that to happen, but if the trend follows on there’ll be very few publications left worth a penny.

    See that this doesn’t mean that photojournalism is less important, and less relevant these days. It’s just that several newspapers out there don’t put value in what photojournalists can produce as part of the staff.

    Which is kinda understandable when you position yourself as a mere replicator of agencies and news agreggators. Several newspapers ceased to be organizations that goes after the news for some time now, limiting themselves to be organizations that replicates news from a handful of sources, which often goes by unchecked to make matters worse.

    This is what the phenomena is all about. Quality and reflections with content and consistency requires hired photojournalists in the newsroom. This cannot be achieved by poorly trained journalists with inadequate tools for the job, juggling between writing, editing, taking interviews and taking photos all at the same time. This can’t be achieved by freelance photographers – consistency becomes a problem. Can’t be achieved by reader submited photos and stories. You’d be always lacking in something by those replacements. But if that’s just enough for the publication, this tells something about the quality of said publication.

  • Nitin Kapoor

    I love reading newspapers, and to be very honest from the day i bought smartphone, i get all the news i want in app’s, and on the other hand i love clicking photographs. I once even planned to be an photographer, but then i thought, the way apps like instagram, picsart, etc are producing photographs so quickly, that might leave no space for pro photographer.

    As newspapers are seeing decline in their sales too, as my friend told me, and more and more people are adapting to reading news online on apps or social media, So these news papers agencies are already on their way to become a part of history.

  • Someone

    Well, if you want your newspapers/web sites to be full of images taken in bright light with normal lenses, then this is the way to go. Good thing every single event newspapers cover take place at noon and photographers can walk right up to the participants.

    What’s with that off camera flash stuff, anyway?

  • David Vaughn

    —> The point

    —> Your head

  • Joe Peek

    The rise to power of the smartphones will affect us all in the creative industry.
    It’s a sad state of affairs when a persons livelihood and passion can apparently be matched and replaced by joe publics smartphone shots. Not only the money aspect but the years spent perfecting the art of photography, literally overtaken by amateurs armed to the teeth with iPhones and instagram filters. I for one am well and truly desensitised to pictures of sunsets, social events, food and dogs.

  • Pat Dooley

    The reality is that the internet is killing traditional newspapers. So, traditional news photography is co-lateral damage.

  • Fred

    “Video killed the radio star..”

  • David C

    Though it’s headline grabbing, for our international photography friends these are really back-of-beyond, exceedingly minor newspapers. Many of them are free papers too reporting mostly on only local events.

    It wouldn’t surprise me if the company as a whole was in serious trouble and this was part of a series of last ditch measures.

  • TC Admiration Society

    Sad the way local newspaper coverage has gone. I still remember my first editor binning press releases preferring to send us out to find proper stories.

    His other trick was to send the press releases to the advertising department in case they could use the subject as a way to persuade the company to buy advertising space so generating advertising revenue. Yes sometimes he had his battles with the advertising department head but only had to concede a couple.

    (Note for newspaper and TV company MD’s – that is the way to increase revenue not by giving free advertising to every company or organisation by regurgitating press releases so they don’t need to pay for advertising)

    Maybe as a freesheet aiming to include editorial my bosses had a different approach but the paper can’t have done badly as a few months after we started including editorial and taking on board other innovations it was bought by one of the big companies and they continued to develop the paper.

    Sadly our media bosses these days appear to be trying to race each other to the bottom faster than a team of Olympic bobsledders.

  • C. Lee-Farqhuar

    Reflects the general decline in trust & ‘visual authority’ which could be seen to be a function of image manipulation etc. Printed news is dead and speed is prime. News has always been disposable (today’s news, tomorrow’s chip papers) and so the images that illustrate the narratives.

  • jrconner

    Most newspaper photography, and that includes sports photography, is cliche photography that can be done with iPhones. Equipping all reporters and for that matter, all newspaper employees, with always available, easy to use, iPhones actually increases the probability that breaking news will be photographed. Case in point: some of the first images of the I-5 bridge span that collapsed in northern Washington was made by a Seattle Times employee with an iPhone who just happened to be there. It was an excellent photograph that was distributed widely.

    I don’t approve of the way these newspapers throw their photographers to the fishes. These photographers deserve better. And the people throwing them to the fishes deserve…well, I’ll let Petapixel’s readers finish that thought.

  • Ryan

    All is not lost. Me and the rest of the photographic team I worked with left our paper last year. We all now earn twice, if not triple, doing half the work. We get calls most days from papers desperate for cover. There is so much out there for a Ex News Tog. Talent and professionalism can never be substituted. To the future.

  • James

    “Internet killed the video star…”