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Reporters start to take over photo duties
Jon L Hendricks, Photographer
Merrillville | IN | USA | Posted: 1:17 PM on 02.04.08
->> The reporters at the paper I work for have all received their own $100 cameras to start shooting their own assignments with. It has been mandated that they shoot more even if the photographers are not shooting anything at the time. This looks like the end of professional still photographers at our paper. Anyone in the same boat? It seems free photos from unknowing reporters are just as good as the ones we make now. I can't wait to laugh at them when they are working 1 or 2 hours past their regular shift just to get their photos in the system.
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Armando Solares, Photographer
Englewood | FL | USA | Posted: 1:22 PM on 02.04.08
->> Will you be asked to write now? After all if their photos are good enough, why can't your copy be good enough? I mean there are spellcheckers and editors in India that can fine tune your copy : )
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Chuck Liddy, Photographer
Durham | NC | USA | Posted: 1:34 PM on 02.04.08
->> instead of the "glass is half empty" feelings you're having right now maybe you can look at it as the "glass is half full". almost every paper of every circulation size (unless they are union shops) are doing this. it's a fact of life in these days of budget cuts . it's not necessarily a bad thing. the fact of the matter is most of the assignments our reporters shoot with point and shoots are not something the photographers should be wasting their time with. mug shots, non-visual situations give the photographers time to work on the important visual stuff. that said another approach is IF they do shoot something that looks like it could be a display situation we'll send a photojournalist out. instead of having a negative attitude and "the end is near" feeling you should insert yourself into the dynamics of this and make it work for the photo department. if the reporters are going to be shooting images make sure you speak to the managing editor about stressing quality even for the reporters. make an argument that ALL reporters using point and shoots need to attend a seminar (which maybe you'll give) about how to use the camera and make visually interesting photos and not crap. stress to the editor this is probably a great idea as long as the QUALITY of the paper doesn't suffer. and your statement "It seems free photos from unknowing reporters are just as good as the ones we make now"....well is that true. are the photos as good as the photo staffs? if so that's an entirely different matter and should concern you more than the reporters using point and shoots. good luck
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David Harpe, Photographer
Louisville | KY | USA | Posted: 1:35 PM on 02.04.08
->> The local Gannett paper here in Louisville has been doing that for awhile, although they use slightly better than $100 cameras to shoot stories. They've also sent a few reporters to video training and have started using them in that role as well.

They use them a lot on "neighborhoods" type assignments - stories where there is usually no deadline pressure and the shot is simple - a shot of a guy holding a prize-winning ham or something. They also are having the overnight spot news reporter shoot simpler shots - crime scene tape and the like.

Pretty common these days at a lot of print publications. Quality suffers, but paradoxically that doesn't seem to be as big of a concern when circ numbers are dropping...
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Kevin Sperl, Photographer
Meredith | nh | USA | Posted: 1:57 PM on 02.04.08
->> Then submit stories with your photos. Instead of seeing it as the end of photographers at your paper, take it as an opportunity to submit stories with your images.
I will bet that your stories will be, at least, as good as the reporters photographs.
At many papers I think we need to stop thinking we can continue to survive with a "single skill" and learn to become more valuable to papers with "multiple skills."
That said, it will be frustrating for you to have to witness photos of dubious, "courtesy photo", quality starting to appear in the paper.
I also observe that many papers feel that text is way, way, more important than photos when it comes to quality.
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Eric Canha, Photographer
Brockton | MA | United States | Posted: 1:58 PM on 02.04.08
->> Would these be the same reporters that expect pj's to shoot staged events and can't understand why it is wrong? The one thing that you get (99%) with a good PJ is integrity. I've lost count of the number of threads that have been posted about reporters who simply can't grasp the simplest of photojournalist ethics, and now they're being handed cameras.

Chuck tack on 30 minutes to the meeting to have the NPPA code tattooed to their palms.
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Brandon Iwamoto, Student/Intern, Photographer
Fort Collins | CO | USA | Posted: 2:13 PM on 02.04.08
->> I think converting reporters to "photographers" straight up like that is counterproductive to trying to attract readers... almost cyclical in how quality goes down, so readership goes down, and in turn to make up for it, quality goes down again.

Theres a reporter/photog at the local paper here, the Fort Collins Coloradoan, named Jason Kosena who does both reporting and photography.... but he's well trained in both, and can quite consistently produce quality photographs as well as copy, so i guess there can't really be a blanket judgement as far as that goes. Then again, i guess quality still might suffer in either the writing or the photography simply because your attention has to be divided between making pictures and paying attention to your surroundings and actually listening to what speakers say, recording interviews, etc.
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Jon L Hendricks, Photographer
Merrillville | IN | USA | Posted: 2:37 PM on 02.04.08
->> I guess all I can do is just sit back and laugh at the reporters who do more work for the same pay and don't think about what precedent they are setting. Good luck to them. I'm just trying to come to terms with it myself. And no, the photos they are producing could be made by anyone off the street. The management doesn't care about the quality since no one would ever really call or email the paper about a lack of quality in the photos. They once cared about quality, but profits are now eating away at all of it.

It is a slow subconscious downturn in quality that will make newspapers into clip art cliches that will not stand apart from any competition. We do our part as photojournalists but when it's out of your hands it's tough to accept.

I think I'd rather let the reporters suffer through making photos then try and teach them. I had to pay for my seminars about ethics and making photos (aka college/free internships). Why should they get one? Plus I don't own the newspaper. And I can't wait till a cop threatens to arrest a reporter for making will be too priceless to see them cry about it.
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Chuck Liddy, Photographer
Durham | NC | USA | Posted: 2:42 PM on 02.04.08
->> jon, don't wanna be harsh, but pal you are doomed with an attitude like that. putting a paper out is about teamwork, plain and simple. you're on the same team as the reporters, their screw-up is your screw-up.
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Jon L Hendricks, Photographer
Merrillville | IN | USA | Posted: 2:59 PM on 02.04.08
->> Chuck, thanks for the insight but I think the paper's quality is doomed no matter what I say. I'm just trying to make great pictures every day since that's what I get paid for. If anyone would actually care about quality then I would help them out and do my best to make sure we put out a good product. But, it's not the case.
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Clark Brooks, Photo Editor, Photographer
Urbana | IL | USA | Posted: 3:28 PM on 02.04.08
->> I've been a photographer masquerading as a writer. What's good for the goose is good for the gander. Ask for a $75 digital voice recorder and start writing. You can never have enough marketable skills.
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Jason Miller, Photographer
Cleveland | OH | USA | Posted: 3:29 PM on 02.04.08
->> It's hard for people like us who are passionate about doing good photojournalism to come to grips with the fact that journalism is, and always will be, a commercial venture. It hurts to see something that we work so hard at degraded in any way much less just for the sake of saving a little money. However, as my newspaper laid me off last week I would gladly do a little writing if I could have my job back. The bottom line is it all boils down to how profitable a paper is and the attitude of the management staff. If management doesn't value the visual side of the newspaper/publiation then they will never even flinch about asking their staff to do more even if the end product is not what it used to be.
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Bastian Ehl, Photographer
Magdeburg | _ | Germany | Posted: 5:05 PM on 02.04.08
->> That's a standard for local german papers for several years now. My local paper has a 200.000 circulation and NO photographer. They got 3 freelancers, but most reporters shoot their own stuff with consumer D-SLRs. They even do not have a photo editor anymore. You put your images into the computer and a software "corrects" them.

Quality went down south. Even the freelancers set-up most of their pictures just to have something published (we hold more onto journalist ethics than those guys - and I work part-time for a PR department at the local university). And the newspaper wonders why their number of customers is steadily decreasing. It's a pain.
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William Maner, Photographer
Biloxi | MS | USA | Posted: 5:28 PM on 02.04.08
->> Jon:

It's fairly common at small newspapers and medium newspapers for reporters to take photos as part of their job. It's been going on for as long as I've been around the newspaper business. Newspapers try to increase their circulation or do whatever they can to hold circulation numbers steady. That means covering more subjects in a broader area. Instead of possibly hiring an extra reporter and photographer, hire someone that can do both jobs.

The more versatile you are, the more likely you are to have a job in the newspaper business for the long haul.

When I got out of college more than 25 years ago, I went to work for a fairly good, mid-sized weekly paper. I did everything--wrote some stories, took some photos, did all the darkroom work, did some layout, etc. In the years I worked there, we had two staff reductions.. I was "bulletproof" on account of my versatility--and not to toot my horn too much--and my dependability.

Reporters with cameras won't threaten your job security if you are just as good--even better--with your versatility.

The majority of readers don't concern themselves with technical details. They aren't concerned with details like "maybe I should have used bounce flash.".. All they want is to see decent pictures of their kids, relatives and other friends in the paper. So long as a newspaper gives them what they want, they aren't too concerned with who wrote the story or who took the picture.
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Aaron Rhoads, Photographer
McComb | MS | USA | Posted: 5:52 PM on 02.04.08
->> We've been doing this for a while. I'm a one man show here. So I welcome the relief.

The challenge is communication. Sometimes the reporters get a really juicy photo op with their story that I don't know about and they come back with a grip and grin on deadline.
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Jesse Beals, Photographer
Silverdale | WA | USA | Posted: 10:16 PM on 02.04.08
->> My company has been doing it for the 5 years I have been here. I would say 50% of the reporter shots don't even run or they find a tiny hole to fill because the art is not strong enough to be spread out on the paper. It's funny I hear them all gripe how hard it is to take notes and pictures at the same time.

Rarely does a reporter photo make lead art that fills a page up. Don't get me wrong, every once in a while they hit a home run. But it's more of the "can you find one photo to use out of my 200 images". They learned real quick that it takes skills to capture a decent photo.

Oh and to add a little humer to this, today their office camera was broke because one of them forced the memory card in the card slot backwards bending all the copper plugs. So know they have no camera to use LOL. I think for the time being my job is safe.
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John Plassenthal, Photographer
Vandalia | OH | USA | Posted: 10:47 PM on 02.04.08
->> "Quality suffers, but paradoxically that doesn't seem to be as big of a concern when circ numbers are dropping..."

David's statement got me thinking about something my dad said a long time ago. "If the company is downsizing and you're worried about loosing your job, you need to do it better so that you increase your value." It's a similar sentiment to that we heard from James O'Shea about how continuing to cut and reduce quality isn't going to increase circulation and profits.

Circulations will continue to decline as quality goes down. A weekly publication for our town got a new editor who has chosen to expand citizen journalism. Everyone in town is talking about the poor quality and how the paper is junk since the old editor retired. I know of more than 3 dozen people who won't be renewing their subscriptions when they come due.

Companies can only do one of two things, expand and grow, or contract and decline. If you aren't looking for business growth, you are already in decline. Reducing quality is a sure way to loose market share and in the long run have even lower profits from the declining market.
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Colin Corneau, Photographer
Brandon | MB | Canada | Posted: 11:17 PM on 02.04.08
->> "Quality suffers, but paradoxically that doesn't seem to be as big of a concern when circ numbers are dropping..."

This quote caught my eye, too.

Has it occurred to any managers out there that the two ideas above might be linked..?

People aren't stupid - dish out slop and they'll say 'no thanks'.

That being said, you do have to do what you can to make yourself invaluable. That can be taking on new skills, it can be solving problems before they happen, it can mean taking any extra time you get out of this scheme and using it on new features and quality work.

It can make you better, and hey you have no choice anyway.
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Ronni Moore, Photographer
Pottsville | PA | USA | Posted: 11:20 PM on 02.04.08
->> Slightly off-topic, my paper has been giving little "Flip" video recorders to reporters to use on assignment with photogs. I am totally fine with this but, in practice, on no less than three occasions I have found that the reporter gets in my shots and today we were tripping over each other to get the best shot. And I find that I become preoccupied with getting in their way. I am all for being open to the long overdue multimedia push, but today I felt like I was competing with the reporter for shots...I'm sure that in time the problem will resolve itself, but I was just wondering if others have gone through the same thing (don't mean to hijack the thread)
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Steve Russell, Photographer
Toronto | ON | Canada | Posted: 1:41 AM on 02.05.08
->> Our recent contract agreement at the Toronto Star,
includes "Editorial job consolidation", where there will now be one designation for photographers, reporters, videographers and graphic artists.
That designation is "Journalist"
Details on the new position are still sketchy.
But, everyone will be expected to bring more than one tool to the paper.
There will still be people who specialize in photography or writing, however you could be called upon to do a variety of things.
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John Germ, Photographer
Wadsworth | Oh | USA | Posted: 11:34 AM on 02.05.08
->> For what it's worth, here is my take. To give you some background I do stringer work for local paper and shoot for print sales. My "full time" job is working in IT for a large company. What you're seeing is what happened to the rest of corporate America starting about 10-15 years ago. Like it or not (and few people like it) every company has got to do more with less. The competitive force is different, but the reality is the same. In the white collar corporate world, specialists are a dying breed. Companies are looking for people that wear multiple hats. They want to and have to stream line. So, when they're looking to do that - who is going to stay - the guy that can do 3 different things or the guy that can do only one?

Does quality go down? Sure it does. But history has shown you're fighting a losing battle if you fight AGAINST the multi-hat paradigm. And as has been pointed out Newspapers are part of corporate America. It might be nice for academic purposes to discuss the rise and fall of journalism. But in the real world of making a living and feeding your family you need to be prepared. So, the papers want people that can write and take photos.

The question is - are you going to be the person that's capable of doing both? Or are you going to be the person who is out of a job - just like tens of thousands of displaced white collar workers because you were unwilling to adapt to the new reality. No matter what job you hold in todays world you need to wear 2, 3 or 4 hats. It's no longer good enough to be the BEST at YOUR job. Because, quite frankly, your JOB could get eliminated. You need to be the best at YOUR JOB and GOOD at SEVERAL OTHER jobs.

So, the paper wants writer/photographers. Do you want to be that or not? If all you want to be is a photographer, be prepared for the photographer position to be eliminated. Because, guess what? Some of those writers are going to learn how to be photographers. And they'll be good enough so when either your position or there's gets cut the management is going to keep the person that can do both jobs and let go the person that can only do one.

Been there and lived in in Corporate America. You don't have to like it, but you are going to live it in the newspaper world.
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Jason Franson, Photographer
Edmonton | AB | Canada | Posted: 12:30 PM on 02.05.08
->> I hear where your coming from John Germ, but I'm very confused by one thing. In my life time I have been a steel worker, mill worker, insurance salesman and other things, and now a daily newspaper staffer. Why is it expected of us to take on every duty in the industry for the same pay just so we can be happy to survive in it?

I love what I do and am passionate about it, I'm also open to new technologies. But, I have never been asked to take on so much for so little and be happy about it. This is the only industry I have worked in that I have seen this kind thing happening.

I find it quite frustrating.
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David Harpe, Photographer
Louisville | KY | USA | Posted: 1:54 PM on 02.05.08
->> This is the only industry I have worked in that I have seen this kind thing happening.

TV has been through this and is continuing to go through it now. It used to be on a standard studio newscast you'd have a crew of 7 or 8 people - 3 on the floor running cameras, one floor director, teleprompter operator, in the control room a technical director, an audio person and a director, plus a newsroom staffer as producer. In the tape room you'd have one or two people loading tapes for playback. Now in most studios there's one person on the floor running an automated camera setup, the director in many cases is his/her own technical director, and everything is loaded into a server so you really don't have to have a tape room person. In the news department you used to almost always send out a reporter with a shooter - now a lot of shooters are doing interviews for non-talent subjects, and in our city several sports reporters and some bureau guys shoot their own video. Used to have several editors in addition to shooters - now shooters edit a lot of their own stuff.

Media is a low margin business.
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Jason Frizzelle, Photographer
Greenville | NC | USA | Posted: 2:25 PM on 02.05.08
->> "I guess all I can do is just sit back and laugh at the reporters who do more work for the same pay and don't think about what precedent they are setting. "

Do you work for a newspaper? We are in a day and age when our workload is constantly increasing regardless of the title we hold. With the internet and multiple updates giving reporters cameras was one of the best things that ever happended at our paper. I don't get calls to drive into the studio from another county to shoot a mug or go to meetings five nights a week. Not to say those situations don't occur however they're considerably less frequent. Until the reporters were given cameras, recorders and trained in video all of those duties fell on the photo department. I was relieved in all honesty because it was looking like we were gonna be editing all the multimedia shot at the paper until the rest of the staff was trained. What ive gotten out of my experience is a lot more time to work on making pictures and time to do some things with multimedia that I didnt have before. If you cant figure out ways to turn situations into a positive and succeed when faced with challenges in this industry youre gonna have a long frustrating road ahead of you.

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John Germ, Photographer
Wadsworth | Oh | USA | Posted: 3:43 PM on 02.05.08
->> "In my life time I have been a steel worker, mill worker, insurance salesman and other things, and now a daily newspaper staffer."

Jason - you'll note in my post I referred to this all happening to "white collar" jobs in corporate America. I suspect you didn't see similar things as a steel and mill worker because the union prevented it from happening. But Im only speculating. I also cant comment on other media - I can only comment on my own experience having worked for 3 different corporations.

I can easily say that I routinely have to wear about 4-5 different hats in my daily job. 15 years ago there were 4 people doing what I'm expected to do.

Yes it's tougher and often frustrating - especially when you're expected to perform in an area you weren't really trained or educated to do. The expectation more and more is that you must learn as you go.

The good news is: this can be more rewarding as well because you get to try/do different things.

The bad news is - if you're a person that likes to perform the same role and only that specific role - you can find it very difficult to stay employed.
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Christopher Assaf, Photographer
Baltimore | MD | USA | Posted: 12:04 AM on 02.06.08
->> Everyone is "doing more with less." Right or wrong, it is a virus infecting the newspaper body as a whole. If a reporter with a camera can keep me from spending time driving to and taking a mug shot, so be it. If it frees me up to do something that has promise, I am all for it.

At The Sun we have passed out numerous still and video cameras (after a 2007 contract dispute -- eventually resolved -- over this issue.) Some work is done with them, but most are collecting dust in drawers or getting banged up in the trunks of cars. That may change with time, but at least most of the newsroom realized we can do many things better than some of the other options.
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Nathan Welton, Photographer
Denver | CO | | Posted: 9:45 PM on 02.06.08
->> I get so sick of photographers complaining about reporters taking pictures. The sentiment lacks so much vision.

Photographers should be happy that they don't have to go take idiotic drive-by mug shots when a reporter's image will suffice. Then the shooters can focus on photo essays and spend more time doing the things they like, and do those things better. I can't tell you how many times crappy photos wind up on the front page because the otherwise talented photographer had too much on his or her plate.

Oh yeah, don't get me started with this whole 'writers are too busy taking notes' argument. That's baseless. If the assignment demands both people on site, fine, send both. Readers deserve it. But the vast majority of assignments don't need both people on site, and one person who can shoot and write is a better use of resources in such a situation.

After 5 years in newspapers, I quit due to newsroom territoriality. That was two years ago. I'm so happy I did. I make more money freelancing my images and words than I thought possible. New media and digital journalism is the the future, so get used to it. It got *really* old and frustrating trying to deal with old school pigeonholing mentalities so prevalent in the newsroom. Such close-mindedness sure didn't help me become a more talented or employable person in an increasingly competitive field.

Want better journalism? Here's an easy recipe: have one reporter a day shoot a mug shot for his or her story. That saves up five assignments a week -- which is a day's work. Do that for a month and you've got almost a week's worth of work freed up. With that open time, dedicate your photog to a photo essay or something incredibly moving. Print it. Win awards. Win readers. Win advertising. Boost circulation. Be a visionary, not a curmudgeon.

In fact, I think photographers should be *encouraging* writers to take photos, and even even teaching them how.

Newsrooms can be such a team-oriented place, but they can also be an internal warzone. Screw that. If everyone started looking out for the product instead of for themselves, we'd have better products, satisfied employees and better journalism.

People who take advantage of opportunities that are handed to them are going to excel in the marketplace. The multitalented journalist of 2010 is going to get a job a lot faster than the self-described writer or photographer.
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Thread Title: Reporters start to take over photo duties
Thread Started By: Jon L Hendricks
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