Category Archive: newspapers
“Being in the room with John White when we got laid off was a highlight of my career. About 30 of us got the axe. As soon as [Sun-Times editor] Jim Kirk said they were going to have the reporters produce multimedia for their rapidly changing platforms, I just had to walk out.” -Rob Hart, former Sun-Times Media photojournalist, speaking to News Photographer
We’ve covered lay-offs before (the Paper Cuts website is a good primer on recent history), but this week the Chicago Sun-Times took the unprecedented move of laying off their entire photo staff. Twenty-eight full-time staffers, including photographers and photo editors, were given the ax, and now there’s a major metro newspaper in the US without a photo staff. Among those laid off was the great John H. White, 1982 Pulitzer Prize winner and elder statesman of news photography, who’d worked at the paper for 44 years. Read Scott Strazzante’s ode to the photographer, The Great John H. White. Now, here’s a photo of White and others receiving their walking papers.
The Sun-Times says the reason for the lay-offs was a general move toward video and multimedia, and that still photo needs would be filled by freelancers and reporters who will be trained in “iPhone photography basics.” I always find it curious that newspapers expect reporters to fill the roles of photographers and newspapers after lay-offs; I’ve never heard of photographers being asked to take on the writers’ roles after a round of cuts. Here’s a May 30 story published by the Sun-Times featuring an awful photo taken by the writer of the article to give you an idea of what the paper’s visual coverage might look like going forward.
Here are a few reactions to the news that are well worth a read:
- Poynter: John White on Sun-Times layoffs: ‘It was as if they pushed a button and deleted a whole culture’
- Alex Garcia: The Idiocy of Eliminating a Photo Staff
- Vincent Laforet: How to ensure your extinction: look at what newspapers are doing
- Jeff Jarvis: To the Dauntless Lensmen
- Allen Murabayashi: How the Internet Killed Photojournalism
- Black Chicago in the 1970s, through the lens of John H. White
- An open letter to the Sun-Times owners, by Jerry Burnes, news editor at the Williston Herald
- New York Times: Do Newspapers Need Photographers?
- Fake craigslist soliciting iReporters for the Sun-Times (mirror)
- some photos of Sun-Times photo staffers after receiving the news
And for anyone who’s been laid-off (in news local to me, Boston University just laid-off their entire photo staff), know that things will get better. Here are resources from the NPPA for laid-off visual journalists. And here’s Chip Litherland’s open letter to newspaper photographers.
This is weird. Old press card photos of staffers from the Miami Herald are up for sale on eBay. Above is a 1981 image of columnist Edwin Pope, a print of which can currently be had for $28.88. Wait…what?!
I knew that newspapers have been selling off their photo archives, and had heard about the Arkansas-based John Rogers Photo Archive buying up many major newspapers’ photos. But I didn’t know what Rogers was doing with the photos. He started with the Detroit News and then eventually acquired the licensing and print sales rights to the photo archives of the Boston Herald, the St. Petersburg Times, the Denver Post, and other storied news organizations and individual photographers. It’s a good deal for the newspapers. The cash-strapped publications get a one-time payment and a searchable digital archive of their work. For Rogers, the deal was less clear immediately. He’d managed to parlay old sports photographers’ archives into major deals with trading card manufacturers. Images of celebrities and politicians in the newspaper archives would be valuable, but Rogers also began to put ordinary newspaper images up for sale on eBay and the money started to roll in.
The Rogers Archive is now one of the largest stores on eBay, with over 2 million images for sale (I’m not sure if there are other seller profiles operated by the Rogers Archive, but here’s one with 50,000+ images). In a 2012 interview with the Arkansas Times (That’s a great link, by the way, and where Rogers calls his archive the “Walmart of Photography”. Read it for a good background on all of this), Rogers says that eBay sales of old newspaper images bring in $120,000 a week. That’s not a typo. And that’s not the Rogers Archive’s only source of income. But that’s why and how prints of old press card photos of newspaper staff are showing up on eBay.
The Rogers Archive website says that a stock licensing portal will be made to facilitate licensing these images, but promises says it will be coming soon in 2011. Digital Stock Planet‘s website just says “under construction.”
In our first year at dvafoto, I wrote about Kim Rugg, an artist who rearranges the letters on newspaper front pages in alphabetical order. In another imaginative approach to the object of print journalism, Lauren DiCoccio has taken to embroidering snippets of newspapers and magazines (among her many other projects) and the results create a beautiful preservation of the periodical publication. In sewnnews, DiCoccio covers sections of the New York Times in muslin and embroiders sections of the cover photos and headlines. In 365 Days of Print, she isolates small segments of the page and renders the text in thread. In National Geographics, she creates thread and fabric idealizations of issues of the yellow-bordered magazine. Throughout these projects, threads dangle and the embroidery seems almost unfinished.
After submitting pictures from Aleppo this week Rick Findler was told by the foreign desk that “it looks like you have done some exceptional work” but “we have a policy of not taking copy from Syria as we believe the dangers of operating there are too great”. -Sunday Times tells freelances [sic] not to submit photographs from Syria
The British newspaper, The Sunday Times, has told a freelance photographer not to submit photos from Syria because the risk of working there is too great. After sending pictures from Aleppo, Syria, to the paper for consideration, conflict photographer Rick Findler was told that the paper has a policy not to look at non-commissioned reporting from the country. It’s an interesting development for the photojournalism industry, especially since closures of foreign bureaus have increased news publications’ reliance on freelancers for international reporting. Conflict reporting is a dangerous and expensive operation, and when things go bad freelancers lack the institutional support afforded to staff reporters.
Speaking to the Press Gazette, The Sunday Times policy deputy foreign editor Graeme Paterson cited just these concerns in explaining the paper’s policy against hiring freelancers to cover Syria or license their work from the region even after the reporter has gotten out of the country. Speaking on the matter, Paterson said, “…we take the same view regarding freelancers speccing in material. Even if they have returned home safely. This is because it could be seen as encouragement go out and take unnecessary risks in the future. The situation out there is incredibly risky. And we do not want to see any more bloodshed. There has been far too much already.”
Yesterday James Estrin, co-Editor of the New York Times Lens Blog and Staff Photographer for the Times, announced that they are inaugurating the first New York Photography Portfolio Review, a two-day event in April 2013. It will bring together 160 photographers, in two one-day sessions, with more than 50 prominent reviewers, including a diverse selection of photo editors, agents, publishers, curators and buyers. The event will include private portfolio reviews, discussions and workshops.
They’ve also announced that the event will be free to attend for invited photographers, a step away from other major portfolio reviews in the US and Europe which can cost hundreds of dollars. The event, on April 13 and 14 at the City University of New York Graduate School of Journalism in New York City, is divided in two sessions: on Saturday the 100 invited photographers will all be 21 years or older, and on Sunday all 60 photographers will be aged 18-27. To attend you must submit a portfolio by February 13, and invited photographers will be informed by March 8, 2013.
This is such an interesting event that I wanted to pose a few questions to Estrin, and he agreed to fill us in.
Dvafoto: Whose idea was this project, and how does it fit Lens’ and the NYT’s goals?
Estrin: I’ve always thought that the web, and social media were very powerful tools for communication, but significantly different than actual human interaction. Real Analogue interaction can have important and profound consequences.
I came up with the idea for the review with Lens co-editor David Gonzalez.
We have been lucky that our marching orders, from our boss [assistant managing editor for photography for the New York Times] Michele McNally, have always been to make the very best blog we could. Make the best editorial judgements that we could make, be willing to be smart, try to be principaled and don’t worry about traffic or business. So if this event can help the photo community, and create opportunities and discussion, then it fits into our mission. There are many ways to communicate.
Why did you choose to make the event free? This surely bucks the trend of most portfolio reviews and events for photographers these days.
It’s free because we wanted to create as many opportunities for photographers, regardless of background, to share their work.
There are fine portfolio reviews that charge- most of them non profit either by design or execution. I reviewed this year at Review Santa Fe and also at Lens Culture Fotofest in Paris and I think both were very was helpful for many photographers as well as for myself as an editor. At the same time I think we all have a responsibility to our fellow photographers, particularly the youngest new photographers amongst us.
Many people helped me when I was a young freelance photographer. I wouldn’t be here without them. I always remember how difficult it was to show my work in the pre-digital era, and how alone I often felt. There is an important tradition of experienced photographers helping newer ones.
Why the age categories? Will there be a different curriculum for each session?
The age categories are because I wanted to make sure that we did the utmost we could for up and coming photographers.
All photographers 21 and older can go on Saturday and I think the opportunities will be great. But on Sunday you have to be 18 -27 and there will be many workshops as well as reviews. By the way a very accomplished 21 -27 year old photographer could apply and get in for both days.
Ultimately, we just wanted to do some good, have fun, and help our colleagues in any way that we can. So we asked what would be a meaningful thing to do.
My colleagues from the New York Times, National Geographic, Time, Aperture, Abrams books, PDN, and many museums, magazines, galleries and blogs have generously agreed to share their time. We are adding new reviewers daily.
Thanks to James Estrin for answering some of our questions and for organizing this fantastic opportunity for photographers.
The deadline for submitting your portfolio is February 13, 2013 on the entry page. Good luck to everyone applying!
This week the Seattle Times Company, publisher of The Seattle Times newspaper, announced that they would be donating ad space in the newspaper to support two Washington State political campaigns: the “Yes on R-74 Campaign” (a referendum supporting Same-Sex Marriage in the state) and the Republican candidate for Governor Rob McKenna as a pilot project to prove the worth of paid political advertising in newspapers at a moment when such investment by campaigns is dwindling. The Times is the only remaining daily newspaper in Seattle following the Seattle Post-Intelligencer’s move to web-only in 2009. The first of the full page ads, which are considered independent expenditures and the content of which is not coordinated with McKenna’s campaign (or the Seattle Times’ newsroom, for that matter), appeared in Thursday’s newspaper and will continue this week. The value of the contribution of ad space in support of the McKenna campaign, at market rates, is $75,000 so far and it is believed a similar value will be given as an in-kind contribution to the Washington United for Marriage campaign which is advocating for the approval of Referendum 74.
The Seattle Times newsroom has a comprehensive article about the controversy: “Times Co. criticized for McKenna, gay-marriage ad campaigns” and The Stranger, an independent weekly newspaper in Seattle, also has strong coverage of the story on their website’s blog called the SLOG, including their news item about the ads, questions raised by Rob McKenna’s Democratic opponent Jay Inslee and responses by The Seattle Times company and some of the reporters in the Seattle Times newsroom.
The Times Company’s spokeswoman Jill Mackie describes this move as a “one-time pilot project aimed at demonstrating the power of print advertising” in an interview with The Stranger. The Times has previously endorsed both the Republican candidate for governor and the pro R-74 campaigns in this election cycle. Seattle Times Executive Editor David Boardman said in the Times’ article that the Seattle Times news department “was not part of the discussion or the decision to do this.” In the same article the Times quotes Roy Peter Clark of the Poynter Institute: “It’s not the newspaper’s problem; it’s not the publisher’s problem; it’s not even the readers’ problem; it’s the problem of the reporters who are covering these issues and these candidates. Their credibility at stake.”
Paid political advertising in our national newspapers is not new, and is not under oversight at this moment. We must look closely at the Seattle Times’ leadership and ethics as a company that intends to buy advertising in their own product to support one particular position on a electoral vote (R-74) and one partisan political candidate, while also attempting to maintain an effective and neutral newsroom. I, for one, am angry and confused about the handing of these expenditures (their planning, their placement, their timing) no matter the possible benefits each campaign might receive from the Times Company’s donation. I have positions on both of the campaigns that are at the center of the Times’ marketing stategry and that does not get in the way for a moment about my anger of how this is being done. It is not about the issues in the campaigns, I see the issue as how a newspaper company can so clumsily be trying to help swing races in this manner. The ethical shortcomings are vast and disheartening. But it remains to be see if this is a smart business decision, as I cannot help but admit, that might be the only avenue the Seattle Times Company has left: growing its business of selling political adverts at the cost of further undermining its own editorial divisions. This could indeed be a smart business decision, that least the newspaper’s readership and in turn our democracy in a far less informed place.
There are a lot of questions, and way too many speculations to indulge in here. But have any of our readers heard of similar programs which blur the business of a newspaper so much as the Seattle Times Company placing their own branded ads into their paper alongside editorial pages? And what must the staff think about this inside work-around on political fundraising and expenditures? There are rumors of a Seattle Times staff rebuttal to how they are being treated (for example: this momentous decision happening behind their backs) but also expressing their concern for the future of their reporting careers in this city in the possible wake of the paper losing credibility amongst some sources and voters.
This will be a test case to watch. Can you think of any other ones like it that we can see and compare with? Interesting times in my home town, no matter.
Photographer Michael Marten’s project about tidal landscapes across the British coastline was published recently on The Guardian’s website with an interactive presentation where the viewer uses a slider to quickly move between the two photographs of the same scene. This web presentation sits in interesting contrast to the way the photos are presented on Marten’s own website, in a more traditional ‘side by side’ diptych. (I can’t link directly to the presentation, but visit the site to see for yourself). Further, the project is also being shown as an exhibition at gallery@oxo in London, is available as a video animation on his site and is being published in book form. This makes an interesting case-study of different presentations of the same photographic project.
I’m not sure if this is the greatest project to show off this web “technology” (or should I say “technique”) but I think it is an interesting example of how photography can be presented on the web in ways that would be very difficult to do in other media. Certainly difficult in anything approaching mass media. I’d be curious to see this applied to some of the numerous ‘re-photography’ projects done by photojournalists around the world. Like John Stanmayer’s “Tsunami Revisited” or Jim Marshall’s “Sarajevo 1996/2011″.
I haven’t seen the gallery show nor the book, but I think that even despite the novelty of this web trick (which perhaps undermines the ‘fine art’ nature of the project) it is probably the best way to share the essence of the project about the widely ranging landscapes underneath British tides. The immediacy of the web presentation at The Guardian is my favorite way to interact with this project. Though the time-lapse video animation on his site is also pretty interesting, with a four-hour view of the same scene featuring many people and vessels wandering the scene. What do you think?
(thanks to Michael Bowring for showing me this)
Worth a read on the future of newspapers: Warren Buffet’s letter to publishers and editors and Tim McGuire’s This I BelieveJun 6, 2012 by M. Scott Brauer No Comments »
Berkshire will probably purchase more papers in the next few years. We will favor towns and cities with a strong sense of community, comparable to the 26 in which we will soon operate. If a citizenry cares little about its community, it will eventually care little about its newspaper. In a very general way, strong interest in community affairs varies inversely with population size and directly with the number of years a community’s population has been in residence. Therefore, we will focus on small and mid-sized papers in long-established communities. -Warren Buffet in a letter to the Publishers and Editors of Berkshire Hathaways’s Daily Newspapers
A couple of future of newspaper/journalism pieces have crossed my radar a few times over the past couple of weeks, and I thought I’d pass them along. Warren Buffet wrote a letter to publishers and editors of newspapers owned by his investment and insurance company Berkshire Hathaway, outlining his interest in newspaper journalism and a positive view for the future. One of the world’s wealthiest people and frequently considered one of the most influential, Buffet usually has something interesting to say. His letters to Berkshire Hathaway shareholders are well worth a read. His letter to editors and publishers is an interesting look at the current business of community news, and he suggests that Berkshire Hathaway will continue to invest in small and medium-sized papers.
“Covering city council meetings and boring feature stories on school principals will not cut it. Successful news operations will redefine local news as true accountability reporting in local areas. They will make the issues from that city council meeting relevant to people concerned about the livability of their city. That will require real reporting resources and it cannot be done on the cheap. Newspapers and TV news operations need to face that fact that they are not nearly as good as they need to be. There is too much content that’s simply not compelling in major regional newspapers. Hell, much of it is boring.” -Tim McGuire, This I believe about journalism, newspapers and the future of media
On a slightly different note, Tim McGuire details both his concern for the present and hope for the future in This I believe about journalism, newspapers and the future of media. A longtime newspaperman and Pulitzer winner/juror, McGuire worries about the current path of newspapers and other news organizations who are focused on adapting the old financial models of journalism to the new media economy. There’s plenty of room to innovate, he says, and newspapers need to stop being boring and start making content that’s relevant to people’s lives. Use news from the community and the nation to inform readers about what’s going on and how it will affect them. McGuire’s thoughts aren’t revolutionary, but they’re well put and worth a read. Gutted staffs at newspapers probably can’t afford to do everything McGuire suggests, but as more and more papers are cutting back on circulation and publishing frequency, hopefully some changes can be made.
“There’s no doubt we’re going out of business right now.”
-unnamed news exec, speaking to the Project for Excellence in Journalism
Newspapers aren’t out of the woods yet. There weren’t as many layoffs in 2011 as in, say, 2009, but newspapers still have a difficult time drawing in revenue from their digital offerings. A new study by the Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism explores how newspapers are doing in their efforts to build digital revenue. The results are grim.
While some papers have seen digital revenue grow, many have seen stagnant or negative growth. In general, for every seven dollars lost in print revenue, papers make just one dollar with digital advertising. Many newspapers have devoted resources to create Groupon-like deals sites and other non-traditional revenue models. These coupon programs have grown, but still bring in only 5% of digital revenue.
The study points out a few factors that may explain this poor performance. There are three times more print-focused salespeople at the papers studied than digital salespeople. There is a conflict between people trying to innovate at papers and the entrenched legacy of traditional newspaper revenue and reporting models. And newspapers don’t have resources to experiment with non-traditional revenue streams.
The study’s long, but well worth a read if you’re interested in the future of newspapers.
(via Nieman Journalism Lab)
Here are a few notable and fun things that happened in 2011:
On August 15 a selection of my work from the Balkans was featured as the PDN Photo of the Day.
During the Ratko Mladic arrest story that I followed for a week in May one of my images from Srebrenica was used nicely on the front page of the International Herald Tribune.
My year finished with a pair of fun assignments for Le Monde Magazine (“The Belgrade of Enki Bilal”) and Financial Times: Connected Europe Magazine (“Regeneration of the Danube”, may require sign-up). You can also see the layout on my website.
I’ve previously published my “best” or more accurately “favorite” photos of the year here on dvafoto in 2009 and 2010. If you’re interested in some of the places where my pictures were published last year, see the clips section of my website, at mattlutton.com.
Happy New Year to everyone, thanks for following our work here at dvafoto!