Tag Archive: business
A Pew Research Center study shows that photographers have been hit hardest by US newspaper layoffs since 2000. There has been a 32% reduction in writing staff (from ~25,500 to ~17,500 writers), but newspaper photographers’ numbers have decreased about 42% (from 6,171 to 3,493). Newspapers frequently cite changing technologies or ease of training writers to take photos or video as they report the news. Over at Sun-Times/Dark Times we’ve seen just how bad that can get through comparisons between Tribune and Sun-Times coverage after the Sun-Times laid off its entire photography staff.
I always find it curious that newspapers are quick to train writers to serve as photographers in these situations, and that almost never goes the other way.
“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.”
“instead of trying to pick apart the meaning and motivation behind photographs, these articles will try to find out how photographers are actually surviving in 2013. I want to talk concretely about the challenges facing photographers, and the conditions that affect their work, both in the personal and professional sense of the word.” -Dan Abbe, Why How You Living?, American Photo
We’ve been on the subject of business in photography recently. American Photo has embarked on a fascinating series profiling photographers around the world and how they cobble together a living. Called “How You Living?” the series takes a candid look at what photographers do to get by. Here’s a short explanation about the motivation behind the series. The crux of the interviews, though, is something not often talked about in photography circles: how do you make a living? The short answer is that there are very few people who make their living entirely from taking pictures.
Only a couple of the photographers make some or a substantial part of their income by using a camera. Others fit in photography alongside full-time jobs, freelance design work, teaching, or whatever else it might take. For those of us making a go of freelance photography, this might not be news, but it’s refreshing to hear photographers speak openly about how they make things work. For those of you just starting out, know that you’ll probably need to supplement your photography with other work (or less interesting types of photography) for some time. I know I certainly did.
This is making me panic as a Photo Journalism major. -top voted comment discussing Who Pays Photographers? at reddit
Pricing journalism always feels like a dark art. Following the online payment for journalism back-and-forth last week, Manjula Martin started collecting payment rates for writers at the Who Pays Writers? tumblr. Following that lead, one of our friends set up Who Pays Photographers?, a collection of anonymously-submitted reports of rates paid for (primarily) assignment work. Not long after the site took off, I got a call from the creator concerned about the popularity of the site (averaging 15,000 unique visits a day), and we talked a bit about what purpose the site might serve and how to make it a reliable resource. You can submit rates anonymously through the site.
An interview at PDN tells a little more about what goes into collecting this information and the goals. You can see all of the submitted rates paid to freelancers around the globe, from Gazeta Wyborcza’s $26 day rate to Forbes’ $1250 day rate including assistant and digital fee. The entries also have notes about contractual terms and the time it takes to receive payment. It’s not always a rosy picture, though that’s hardly a surprise.
The response to Who Pays Photographers? has been generally positive, spreading quickly via twitter, facebook, and reddit. At reddit and elsewhere, though, people have been dismayed by the low fees for most photojournalism.
I’m of the opinion that Who Pays Photographers? is an incredibly important resource. While many organizations and blogs work hard to educate freelancers about the business of photography, the actual fees paid for assignment or stock are often kept secret by photographers (though some do publish rate cards). The best way to improve our lot is to be honest and open about what it’s like to work in photography, and a major part of that is a conversation about money, since we all know exposure doesn’t pay the bills.
Make sure to submit some of the rates for your assignment work. I have already, and you should, too.
At Popular Science, we’re pretty good about paying for work; I’ve certainly never asked someone to write a piece for free (photography, sadly, is a totally different story. I feel for photographers!). -Popsci.com editor Dan Nosowitz in a discussion between editors on paying writers
There’s been a lot of talk in the past few days after Nate Thayer posted on his blog about an Atlantic.com editor asking him to write for free. There’s a good summary of the events here. To any freelancers, it’s a common enough occurrence. If you haven’t seen Fuck You, Pay Me, start there. The Atlantic has issued an apology to Thayer, no doubt due to the attention given Thayer’s blog post.
One of the most interesting things to come out of the discussion, though, is a branch thread (?) involving editors and writers from a number of well-known online and print publications on the subject of paying writers for work. It’s called How Much Should A Writer Be Paid, If Anything. The quote above, about the sorry state of payment for photography for online journalism, is cherry-picked from well down in the discussion, but the rest is definitely worth a read for insight into how online publications compensate their contributors. It’s a very interesting look behind the curtain of pageviews and budgets.
And while the situation for writers isn’t rosy, the quote at the top shows it can be even worse for photographers (as we all know). I was happy to read last year (search for “Well, I think it has to do with paying people”) that the NYT’s Lens blog has started paying photographers. Ironic for this discussion, the Atlantic’s In Focus blog, one of the premiere photography showcases online, doesn’t pay photographers last I checked (see update below; the blog does pay for wire service subscriptions). As more and more media entities get into the online photography game, it’s important to make sure photographers are paid fairly for their work.
Update: Thanks to In Focus editor Alan Taylor for adding to the discussion with his comment down below.
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.”
The Atlantic, a 156-year-old publication, has been at the forefront of digital media. Its diverse blogs (I read James Fallows and Ta-Nehisi Coates) and online projects (InFocus, Atlantic Cities and the Atlantic Wire, for instance) have helped the Atlantic lead the push into the new media environment, all while making the publication profitable again. That’s what makes Jan. 14′s missteps, publishing an ‘article’ sponsored by the Church of Scientology in the same format as the Atlantic’s online news, so confounding and laughable.
Here’s what happened: The Atlantic is experimenting with models of funding online journalism. The Atlantic decided to start running paid content in line with its regular reporting, the first of which was something called “David Miscavige Leads Scientology to Milestone Year” (archive of article with a few comments) posted at 12:25pm on Jan. 14, 2013. This article and some associated sidebar content looked indistinguishable from regular Atlantic content (and showed up in searches of the Atlantic’s online archive), though they were marked with the words “sponsored content.” The Atlantic’s marketing team was monitoring comments on the Scientology article and deleted a number of negative comments. Criticism of the article spread across social media. And at 11:35pm, less than 12 hours after it was published, the advertorial was removed from the site and links to it forwarded readers to a message stating, “We have temporarily suspended this advertising campaign pending a review of our policies that govern sponsor content and subsequent comment threads” and saying “We screwed up.”
Advertising content that looks like editorial content is nothing new. You can see “special advertising sections” in many newspapers and magazines. The Chinese and Russian governments have been particularly persistent with advertorials that look like news reporting in international news publications, including the Washington Post and New York Times. But the Atlantic’s Scientology debacle was a step too far for readers, not least because the Church of Scientology has a reputation for being a threat to democracy and unfriendly to those reporting or sharing information about the church.
For more about the Church of Scientology, make sure to read the New Yorker’s piece about director Paul Haggis and the Tampa Bay Times series investigating the inner workings of the Church.
And in the vein of editorial independence in online media, earlier this week a CNET writer resigned after CNET’s parent company CBS forbade the writer from giving a technology award to a company that CBS is currently suing.
The video above has been making the rounds, and it’s a great insight into what it can be like as a freelancer. While you might not encounter some of the attitudes in the video as a photojournalist, if you venture into other realms of freelance photography (PR, corporate, advertising, weddings, portraiture, etc.) you’re sure to run in to this. The video is part of a campaign called Don’t Get Screwed Over, which offers tips on how not to get screwed over in your freelance business dealings. The campaign also points to Docracy, an open source legal document repository with plenty of useful forms and contracts for freelancers. As with any legal dealings, it’s best to consult a lawyer familiar with your situation and jurisdiction, but Docracy looks to be a good starting point.
And here’s a bonus video, similar to the one above, imagining what it would be like if people treated all business transactions (a drink at the bar, buying a dvd from a store, the barber) the way that vendor/client relationships often happen.
And remember: Fuck you, Pay me!
“The 2012 NPPA Business Blitz will help its students develop the fundamental building blocks for creating a sustainable business in a changing marketplace. Lectures will build on basic business principles to address challenges faced by freelancers as they navigate a brave new digital realm. Topics will cover methods for monetizing and negotiating new media projects, long-term legal and business considerations in the year 2012, and marketing methodology for reaching new clients.” -NPPA Business Blitz Roadshow
If there’s one thing I’ve learned in my years as a freelancer, it’s that you’ve got to get your business right. In the coming months, the National Press Photographers’ Association will run a series of “Business Blitz Roadshows” aimed at helping photographers figure out their business strategy. The event, which also includes an exhibition of Best of Photojournalism award winners, will be in Boston this weekend (July 13-14), Austin (Sept. 28-29), Chicago (Oct. 19-20), and San Clemente, CA (Nov. 16-17), and the ticket price is much less than most workshops: $30 for non-members to attend both days. Only the Boston schedule of events is available as of this writing, but all stops will feature talks about the business of photography from discussions about the future to the practicalities of dealing with contracts. Hope to see you at the Boston event!
In this vein, the book Best Business Practices for Photographers will probably be useful to you. I frequently flip through the book when dealing with contracts and client issues.