Visual Journalists Feel Brunt of Job Cuts Since 2000

Earlier this month the Times Herald-Record, a small publication from Middletown, N.Y. announced that they were cutting seven newsroom jobs, four of which were the last remaining positions of their photo department.  Citing “new technologies” and “economic realities” as the reason for the cut, the Times Herald-Record is only one amongst a growing number of newspapers who are moving away from visual journalism.

The Chicago Sun Times made international news over the summer when they announced that they were letting go of their entire photo department.  Management announced in a statement that the reason for cutting 28 full-time photographers was due to increasing demand for online video.  The Atlanta Journal Constitution followed suit this past October when they announced plans to lay off a “significant number of its staff photographers,” according to the Pew Research Center.

While the print industry has been hit hard by the development of online publications over the past decade, many publications are successfully maintaining readership.  Billionaire Warren Buffet, CEO of Berkshire Hathaway shocked many when he announced that he had purchased 28 daily newspapers for $344 million back in March of this year.

In his annual shareholder’s letter, Buffet wrote that “papers delivering comprehensive and reliable information to tightly-bound communities…will remain viable for a long time,” he continued to explain that as long as they have a “sensible internet strategy.”  His reason for the purchase was an investment for the future as he has faith in the financial stability of the industry.

While many publications seem to be embracing new technologies to grab the attention of a younger audience, they are left to make difficult decisions within the newsroom.  Papers like the Times Herald-Tribune, the Chicago Sun Times and The Atlanta Journal Constitution, are letting go of photographers because they don’t see the financial gain of keeping them on staff.

The annual newsroom census from the American Society of News Editors indicates that photographers, among other visual journalists including artists and videographers, were the hardest hit over the past decade from newsroom cuts.  Nearly 3,000 positions disappeared between 2000 and 2012; a 43 percent decrease in visual journalism jobs in the U.S.

Although this segment of journalists weren’t the only ones affected by jobs cuts, they saw the highest percentage of cuts amongst journalism jobs.  Copy editors, layout editors, and online producers saw a 27 percent decrease in positions, equaling a total of nearly 3,000 positions and there was a 32 percent decreasing in reporting and writing jobs since 2000 as well.

The past three years have been the most difficult for full time visual journalists as ASNE reported an 18 percent reduction in positions.  The Pew Research Center credits shrinking newsroom budgets and increased use of mobile technology as the cause for layoffs.  Social media allows almost anyone to capture images, which is the reason CNN let go of several photographers in 2011, citing the “impact of user-generated content and social media…in breaking news,” as a main reason.

About Sean Flynn

Sean Flynn is a recent graduate from City University of New York Graduate School of Journalism. His work has appeared in The Buffalo News, Condé Nast Traveler, The New York Times 'Fort Greene Local', The Daily Meal, and
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