Business for some of our members and colleagues has got tougher still this week, with the announcement by Local World that at least 10 staff photographers working on its titles are to be dropped from the security of the payroll. Instead, they are to be offered zero-hours freelance contracts.
Local World is the regional newspaper business headed by David Montgomery and formed by the 2012 merger of Trinity Mirror’s and the Daily Mail group’s local titles.
According to the National Union of Journalists, a plan for a “freelance model” in the West of England will affect staff photographers on papers that include the Western Daily Press, Gloucester Citizen, Gloucestershire Echo and Bath Chronicle, and will involve them becoming “freelance consultants” without receiving redundancy payments.
Speaking to pressgazette.co.uk, Laura Davison, the NUJ national organiser, said: “Long-serving and committed photographers are being put in an impossible position by Local World.
“They have been told they face redundancy or must accept an inferior agreement for freelance work with no guarantees. This is despite the work still being needed.”
A Local World spokesman said: “Like other organisations, Local World continually reviews its operations, and where this has an impact on employees, full consultation always takes place, as is happening in this particular instance.”
This cut-back on photography is just the latest sign of decline of professional work opportunities in local newspapers.
Last year we reported on how a north-west-based freelance, Colin Shorrock, used to receive £25 a shot for photographs of non-League football that he supplied to his local paper. Then the paper told him that it could no longer pay freelancers for their photographs that appeared in its pages. Yet the paper nonetheless continued to use pictures Shorrock had supplied before this ruling, but just without paying him for his work.
Meanwhile, regional newspaper group Archant has dumped many staff photographers after it launched its iwitness24 “platform”, designed to allow readers to share pictures and videos with its newsrooms as well as with their own friends and followers.
That initiative seems to be going well, at any rate for the papers and for those readers who are happy to have their photographs published for nothing more than the apparently warm glow of seeing their name “up in lights”. The iwitness24 website is still asking readers to “share your news and photographs with us and become part of our team”, while it also offers tutorials to show people who don’t mind working for nothing “the easy way of sharing your stories, pictures and video with your local newspaper and website”.
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