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SportsShooter.com: Member Message Board

LA Times to cut 150 staffers
Michael Mariant, Photographer
Morro Bay | CA | US | Posted: 9:49 PM on 04.21.07
->> I posted this earlier but the thread got deleted (I think I did a no-no by putting the actual copy of the story in the post):

http://www.latimes.com/business/la-fi-tribune21apr21,0,4488687.story?coll=la-home-headlines

Let's keep our fellow LA Times shooters in our thoughts as this ongoing downsizing of staff in our troubled and rocky industry continues.

-Michael
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Gabriel Hernandez, Photographer
Harlingen | TX | USA | Posted: 10:51 PM on 04.21.07
->> 150 .... YIKES .... what will happen to us .... we're becoming like the dinosaurs .... is it time to panic and look for a new career? or is this targeting the "older" more experience people??? and making room for younger ones???
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Robert Hanashiro, Photographer
Los Angeles | CA | | Posted: 11:33 PM on 04.21.07
->> Wow!!!

And the LAT just hired two new staff photographers in the past month!
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Jim Leary, Photographer
| NY | USA | Posted: 11:37 PM on 04.21.07
->> "or is this targeting the "older" more experience people??? and making room for younger ones???"

I would think this is merely more evidence that the digital age brings with it so many more options for editors, options that are less expensive than staffers. My guess is photography is headed the way of a freelance society. Now, more than ever photographers from all over have better and easier ways to deliver their product and while the staffers hate this trend, the freelancers just continue to see one door after another open up. Overall, I think the unbiased bystander will probably tell you that its better for the industry because editors will have more and more sources to choose from and those that remain staffers are now required to give 110% all the time or lose their jobs. Hey, that's the way it is in the business world in general and now the photography profession shares this scenerio.

On one hand I hate to see the real quality staffers threatened by too much of this movement. On the other hand I have to admit that some staffers who perhaps don't belong where they are and/or are there for the wrong reasons now have to do some sweating and produce real quality time after time and for that group in particular I have little sympathy.

For far too long this industry has been inundated with average and below average photographers and now these new trends will weed them out because editors have more and more resources to choose from. To me that seems to be a good thing. Just my opinion. Time will tell.
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Paul W Gillespie, Photographer
Annapolis | MD | USA | Posted: 12:12 AM on 04.22.07
->> Jim is it that editors will have more talented people to work with or will they have a cheaper pool of freelance photographers that will give up their rights for low pay. As John Harrington and Mark Loundy say, a freelancer should cost more than a staffer to use on an assignment.

The only reason that these papers can afford to cut staffs is because they have beat down the editorial market so much that it is cheaper to use a freelancer than a staffer and they still get all the rights. Without paying a salary, benefits or providing gear.

Sure there are many lazy staffers out there and in a perfect world the most talented people should get the assignments. I just fear that it will be the photographer that works the cheapest and not the most talented one that will get the work in the future. Editors want the best images they can get but it is the bean counters who write the checks, including the one the editor gets.

Good luck to all in this changing world, both staffer and freelancer.

Paul
www.pwgphoto.com
http://photo-monkeys.blogspot.com/
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Jim Leary, Photographer
| NY | USA | Posted: 12:43 AM on 04.22.07
->> "Editors want the best images they can get but it is the bean counters who write the checks, including the one the editor gets."

Paul,
I hear what you are saying but that argument is kind of old and its always worded in such a way that makes it sound as if "the bean counters" take the cheapest route. Sorry, but I don't buy that. It just sounds to me like another staffer-like point of view. Anytime there's a staff cutback or there's an agency or publication willing to open things up for more photographer participation, automatically the argument is that standards are going to be lower. Sorry, but I don't buy that either. Perhaps editors or their assistants will have to spend more time sifting through some garbage but for every bushel of garbage there can be a diamond in the rough that never would have had a chance to be found. Also, the assumption that by opening the market to more participants automatically lends itself to people "giving" away images for next to nothing is another unfair fallacy concocted by salaried photographers. The best are still the best whether they be staffers or freelancers or both. The rest of the market is opening up and it allows good photographers in and puts more pressure on some that don't belong. This kind of competition goes on all over the business world and in fact creates better, more efficient workers and products so why is there a claim that this same business model won't work in photography and will only produce inadequate photography? Sorry, I disagree. The theory that opening the doors in the photography industry to more people will automatically present a flood of photographers willing to give work away for nothing more than a byline is a false generalization that has been delivered far too often. Good work will be recognized as it always has been. What this more open market does is put more pressure on staffers to give it their all and help weed out those that simply didn't belong there in the first place. In addition it may open some doors to more good photographers who may have otherwise never been given a chance. Hey, we are all entitled to our opinions but that's the way I see it.
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Ron Erdrich, Photographer
Abilene | TX | USA | Posted: 1:57 AM on 04.22.07
->> While a five percent reduction in total newspaper staff may not seem like the end of the world, half of these cuts are coming from the news side, according to this story. Even so, the news staff of the Times is huge and this may still be a small cut when looked at the overall size of their newsrooms. Time will tell.
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Louis Lopez, Photographer
Fontana | CA | USA | Posted: 2:14 AM on 04.22.07
->> "Jim is it that editors will have more talented people to work with or will they have a cheaper pool of freelance photographers that will give up their rights for low pay."

Paul,
I was under the impression that staffers gave up their rights to all images, and while employed as a staffer the images were owned by the Company.
The low prices for images can be resolved by photographers pricing there images competitively, not low but competitively.

What I wonder about is, how has the wire services that offer images on a subscription basis, a download all you can use service for a monthly fee, and how that has affected the way newspapers buy images.

How are photographers compensated that work for these wires? I have heard that at least a few pay photographers a percentage of the fee based on what number of images were yours. seems very confusing.
I know that with non subscribtion fee wire services that you are paid a percentage of each image sold/used.

Under an all you can use service what if 5000 images are used in that month by a publication and the subscription fee is $5000.00 per month, does that work out to $1.00 per image? so as a photographer if 300 of your images are used do you receive a percentage of $300.00 ?
and if that is the case and 100 images are used for the same $5000.00 and all 100 are yours do you receive a percentage of the $5000.00?

I ask because it is my understanding that at least one and probably more subscription wire services, pay in this manner and they do not pay an assignment fee to cover events.

I am a freelancer and I work on spec as well, but this subscribtion thing has me puzzled. I have not personally had to deal with it, but I know that the idea is out there and in practice.
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Ronda Churchill, Photographer
Las Vegas | NV | United States | Posted: 3:13 AM on 04.22.07
->> I have a few questions regarding freelance:

I make a living as a freelancer. I was wondering for those staffers...how much work in their paper's photo department is done by freelancers? Does your paper use freelancers monthly, weekly, daily, 2 or 3 freelancers per day consistantly?

Are there papers that rely heavily/solely on freelancers?

Paul, I do not give up my rights for low pay. Also, I do understand what you're saying when you say, "I just fear that it will be the photographer that works the cheapest and not the most talented one that will get the work in the future." This is a thought that crosses my mind many times. And my way of doing "my part" is that I give my price and then back my price up with my work (a website or gallery the paper/client can visit), communication and smart business.
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Paul W Gillespie, Photographer
Annapolis | MD | USA | Posted: 9:31 AM on 04.22.07
->> Hey folks I am not trying to make this a staffer vs freelancer thing. I have been both and wish nothing but the best for all those involved in the industry. As a staffer I do give up my copyright to images created on the job. In turn I receive a decent steady salary, health benefits, equipment, a company car to use during work hours, gas for that car, liability insurance while I am on assignment, retirement benefits and probably a lot of things I do not know about.

And I applaud those of you who do not work for low paying papers or give up your copyright, but how many papers or wire services out there require WFH contracts or low pay? They are getting images somewhere. AP is the largest wire service in the US and it requires WFH for most, if not all, of its freelancers.

Again I am not anti freelancer. I am pro freelancer. The more money freelancers make, while keeping copyright, means that papers have an incentive to keep staffer pj's on salary. I am just saying that the only reason these papers are cutting staffs is because it is cheaper to use freelance photographers, than keep staffers, and if you think that it is for any other reason, IMO, you are mistaken.

Good luck.

Paul
www.pwgphoto.com
http://photo-monkeys.blogspot.com/
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Rob Ostermaier, Photographer
Newport News | VA | USA | Posted: 9:59 AM on 04.22.07
->> Paul is correct Jim.

We use some really poor freelancers at 40 bucks an assignment and we get what we pay for, crappy photos. But because standards have been lowered so much that reporters are shooting section front photos the bean counters love having access to a cheap supply of royalty free photos. We have talented freelancers in the area but they don't get the jobs because there is a housewife with a Rebel willing to shoot it just to get in the paper.

Newspapers want it as cheap as they can get it and that is the bottom line. Quality be damned!

I'm all for competition, that make everyone work a little harder to produce better photos. But while we are working and competing against each other papers are working out ways to get content at next to nothing. Can you guys put food on the table at 40 bucks an assignment?

It may be that the staffer will be replaced by a freelancer but it won't be because they take better photos than I do. It will be because they work so cheap.
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Rob Ostermaier, Photographer
Newport News | VA | USA | Posted: 10:04 AM on 04.22.07
->> Real bummer about the LA Times. It's one of America's great papers. Hope it stays that way.
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Ronda Churchill, Photographer
Las Vegas | NV | United States | Posted: 2:34 PM on 04.22.07
->> $40 an assignment and a wife with a Rebel. That's awful!
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George F. Lee, Photo Editor, Photographer
Honolulu | HI | USA | Posted: 4:06 PM on 04.22.07
->> "is this targeting the "older" more experience people??? and making room for younger ones?"

How this will probably work as the LAT is an union organized paper, voluntary buyout packages will be offered to the most senior of employees first. Then will come the layoffs of the most junior of staffers. Until the 'desired' goal is met. Last hired, first fired pretty much the rule of thumb.

So the two new staffers the Bob Hanashiro mentioned are toast. Management won't have the option of picking and choosing of who goes and who stays.

This is standard union contract stuff.

Aloha
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Jim Leary, Photographer
| NY | USA | Posted: 8:45 PM on 04.22.07
->> "the only reason these papers are cutting staffs is because it is cheaper to use freelance photographers, than keep staffers, and if you think that it is for any other reason, IMO, you are mistaken."

Without a doubt but the reason it is cheaper is because they are eliminating the costly extras of paying staff like paying for a car, equipment, liability insurance and health insurance, NOT because the freelancer is charging any less than the paper was paying via the staffer's salary. The issue is not quality or the paper not willing to pay a fair price. The issue is all the extras and from a corporate point of view watching their expenses it makes sense. I just can't stand when people insinuate that freelancers get more work than staffers because they sell the images for less. I say that's BS, pure and simple and very much a staffer attitude... one that is very unfair and inaccurate.
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Paul W Gillespie, Photographer
Annapolis | MD | USA | Posted: 9:13 PM on 04.22.07
->> Jim,

Those extras that a staffer gets are the same ones that a freelancer needs. Health care, transportation, equipment and so on. A freelancer has to pay for them their selves. I am sure you know this. If an assignment pays 125.00 and takes half a day to travel, shoot, and post process, that day is basically shot, you may be able to do one or two more, but maybe not. So for that 125.00 you have to take out your cost of doing business, which is what I listed above. Is it still a fair wage for the freelancer?

It is a fact that many papers offer a low wages to their freelancers, maybe you have not run into this, but think about all the newspapers out there and all the images that freelancers supply. They can't all be getting paid what it actually costs them in both creative fees and CODB. The newspaper business just does not pay that way anymore.

You say "I just can't stand when people insinuate that freelancers get more work than staffers because they sell the images for less. I say that's BS, pure and simple and very much a staffer attitude... one that is very unfair and inaccurate." While you may think that it is a "staffer attitude" You don't deny that it costs a paper less to pay a freelancer if they are not paying for the extras. My argument is someone has to pay for them and if not the client or newspaper, then who? The freelancer, out of the fee that is paid by the client.

Where are you Mark and John? I am clearly not as eloquent in explaining this.

Anyway Jim it is nice to have a back and forth on this topic, no matter which way you lean. As I said I am not against you even if I have a "staffer attitude", I want you to get paid as much as you can for your assignments.

Paul
www.pwgphoto.com
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Jayne Oncea, Photographer
Redmond | OR | USA | Posted: 10:34 PM on 04.22.07
->> I was laid off just 2 weeks short of 26 years from the LAT in 2006. If the powers that be want to protect you, they can. They got the numbers they wanted then...but at the time I was a pre-presser and my "group" was being cut no matter how many volunteers they got as a total number. So if they got 200 volunteers, the "lab staff" was being cut. So the numbers that you might hear about is BS. It is absurd that they hire 2 more photographers after letting go so many talented people.

SOOOOO
"Until the 'desired' goal is met. Last hired, first fired pretty much the rule of thumb." is a big pile of BS.
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Jim Leary, Photographer
| NY | USA | Posted: 11:54 PM on 04.22.07
->> "If an assignment pays 125.00 and takes half a day to travel, shoot, and post process, that day is basically shot"

I can see an assignment now and then at that price as a filler on a slow day but if you are a full-time freelancer spending half a day on jobs and coming away with $125 I suggest you consider a new profession.
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Chris Williams, Photographer, Photo Editor
Stevenson Ranch | CA | USA | Posted: 12:06 AM on 04.23.07
->> Well, to put this back on subject a bit, I called my friend over at the LAT and his job (not a photog) is secure for this round. I wish the best for those losing theirs and to the employees still there. I've loved reading the times ever since I've lived in SoCal and it's sad to see it and the print newspaper industry on the downfall.

Chris
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George F. Lee, Photo Editor, Photographer
Honolulu | HI | USA | Posted: 2:22 AM on 04.23.07
->> Jayne,

Sorry to hear about what happened, you sound bitter, yours must have been a special case. I'm kinda surprised, where was your union in all of this?

I hope you landed your feet. Good luck to you.

Aloha
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Mark Loundy, Photo Editor
San Jose | CA | USA | Posted: 3:35 AM on 04.23.07
->> George,

The LAT editorial depasrtment is not unionized. The company kept unions out for decades simply by providing superb pay and benefits and, until the past decade or so, basically lifetime employment.

All,

For those of you who might not know Jayne (Kamin) Oncea, she spent those 26 years at the Times as one of the finest sports shooters in the country.

(sigh)

--Mark
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George F. Lee, Photo Editor, Photographer
Honolulu | HI | USA | Posted: 3:46 AM on 04.23.07
->> I stand corrected.

Thank you Mark.

Aloha
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Mark J. Terrill, Photographer
Simi Valley | CA | USA | Posted: 5:05 AM on 04.23.07
->> I have to concur with Mark Loundy. Jayne is probably the best baseball shooter that I've ever seen. Truly one of my heros. She was also on the scene of the very first news situation in which I sold a picture in 1981 at the age of 15. A barricade situation.

Jayne, I didn't know you were a SportsShooter member. Welcome.
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John Harrington, Photographer
Washington | DC | USA | Posted: 12:49 AM on 04.24.07
->> Jim --

You wrote:>>>I just can't stand when people insinuate that freelancers get more work than staffers because they sell the images for less. I say that's BS, pure and simple and very much a staffer attitude... one that is very unfair and inaccurate.

And then:>>>NOT because the freelancer is charging any less than the paper was paying via the staffer's salary.

And that's where you're wrong. I'll use, for comparison purposes, since I know about the Washington Post rates: $100 for an assignment, WMFH, and $175 for the entire day, regardless of if you shoot two or four assignments, so do the math:

$175 x 5 days x 52 weeks = $45,000, and there isn't a single TWP staffer making that salary as a photographer, try closer to 1.5x-2x that. Furthermore, as you point out, they don't have to pay what is probably $20k a year in benefits/equipment allowance as well. The freelancers has to cover that expense out of what they get paid. Someone can do the math with LAT salary+benefits real-world numbers compared to the simple math of $x a day for a freelancer x work days in a year.

So, it IS the bean counters that are looking at bottom line numbers and seeing where "savings" can be had. They care not one wit about the quality of content.
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Neal Vaughan, Photographer
St. Joseph | MI | usa | Posted: 11:58 AM on 04.24.07
->> Washington post staff photographers make 67-90k a year? Is that an accurate ballpark figure?
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Phil Hawkins, Photographer
Fresno | ca | usa | Posted: 12:54 PM on 04.25.07
->> Keep in mind this is not 150 photographers, it's 150 "staffers". Nowhere in the article did it specifically say photographers were included in the mix.

Phil
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Thread Title: LA Times to cut 150 staffers
Thread Started By: Michael Mariant
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