The National Union of Journalists (NUJ) has condemned regional newspaper publishers Newsquest and Trinity Mirror have increasingly relying on readers to submit their photos without payment.
And the union claimed that the weekly freelance photography budget of Johnston Press’s portfolio of more than 20 local newspapers in Scotland is £15. The publisher responded by saying: “Our overall photographic budget is considerably more than the NUJ is citing.”
The NUJ is currently running the month long #useitpayforit campaign to encourage amateur photographers to charge “properly” for their work.
It adds that publishers Newsquest and Trinity Mirror have come to rely on amateurs and members of the public to submit their own photos without payment.
Newsquest is accused of “actively seeking” to reduce its number of professional photographers by turning to amateur camera clubs and readers for the use of free images.
The NUJ claims that members of camera clubs lose ownership of their images and the company can use the photos in anything from advertising to online new stories.
£15 a week budget…
For context, I spent £150 just last month to get to photograph Prince Charles.
I spent 9+ hours standing in the rain, and editing, and traveling, for those pictures.
— Benjamin Wareing (@BenjaminWareing) February 12, 2018
It also said that Trinity Mirror has shed many of its staff photographers. In 2016, Press Gazette reported that the publisher told staff that professional pictures will only be taken where free content is unavailable or inappropriate.
The #useitpayforit campaign aims to highlight how it has become “harder and harder” to make a living as an editorial photographer due to the scope of sharing images online and the wide use of free images used by publications.
Responding to the claims made by the NUJ, editorial development director at Newsquest Toby Granville said: “Due to advancements in technology and smartphones, we employ less photographers than we did ten years ago – our reporters are now able to take high quality photographs and video themselves.
“However, we still retain a photographer at most of our titles and Newsquest editors also have a significant freelance budget at their disposal. As has been the case for many years, we also accept submissions from the public.
“More recently, we have also launched a community engagement initiative called the Camera Club – which tens of thousands of keen amateur photographers across the country have signed up to – and we award prizes and hold exhibitions in recognition of their contributions to our titles.
“The driver for the camera clubs is about giving our readers the chance to participate, share and engage, it’s not about cutting photo budgets – as the NUJ wrongfully claims.”
A spokesperson for Johnston Press said: “We do of course use freelance photographic on our weekly titles and we manage the budget accordingly.
“We receive a large number of unsolicited photographs from readers and organisations who are naturally very keen to see their work publicised for free and they like to see their names credited in our titles.
“Our industry continues to adapt and to evolve and the prevalence of mobile phones and digital photography has dramatically changed the way photographs are used in traditional news platforms, social media and other digital platforms. We continue to invest in our editorial teams, not least announcing the creation of 31 new roles to bolster our digital presence.”
Trinity Mirror declined to comment.
NUJ members are asked to contact the Photographers’ Council of the union at email@example.com if news organisations are offering low fees or not paying at all.