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Portions of this column were originally written for the February 2010 edition of News Photographer Magazine.

Mark Loundy is a media producer and consultant based in San Jose, California. Full bio.

The opinions in this article are those of the author alone and do not necessarily represent the official views of the National Press Photographers Association.

February 2010, Volume 88
By Mark Loundy

"These are the good old days"

— Carly Simon

Unless you're waking up from a coma, you will have noticed that newspaper employment is not the cozy lifetime arrangement that it once was. A chart in, based on numbers from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, shows that employment in the newspaper industry fell off a cliff at the turn of the century. It's currently at levels not seen since the early 1950s and plummeting.

The Good Old Days Are So Over!The head of the UK's Telegraph Media Group's digital development recently announced his resignation by saying, "The future is individual journalists, not big media." This means that everybody is going to be a freelancer. The gutting of nearly the entire Washington Times photo department shows that this particularly affects photographers.

So now what? If you're going to stay in the media business you're going to have to learn to be in business. Even those of you whose papers financed your upcoming Pulitzers for your work in Haiti won't be able to escape the changes.

As in any business, it helps to fill a need. There simply is no longer any general need for "newspaper photographers." You will not only need to find a niche market, but you will need to expand your toolkit to meet the varying needs of the market. That doesn't just mean buying a video camera, it means becoming a holistic journalist.

Spelling counts, design counts, audio, platform, user interface and social media all count. And you're going to have to become at least conversant in all of them.

But you won't have to become the Leonardo da Vinci of multimedia all by yourself. Ad hoc teams will come together for single projects. One member might be a coding geek. Another might be an ace grant writer. (Oh yeah, money counts too.) Still another might specialize in writing. You won't have to go it alone.

The good old days are so over.

The Good
BulletIt was not a "Good" month.

The Bad
BulletThe Bonnier Corp. stable of magazines for their "non-negotiable" contract presentation.

The Ugly
BulletOh, they're out there. But nothing especially Ugly this month.

Please let me know of any particularly good, bad or ugly dealings that you have had with clients recently. I will use the client's name, but I won't use your name if you don't want me to. Anonymous submissions will not be considered. Please include contact information for yourself and for the client.

  • I featured the Northwest Herald of Crystal Lake, IL in a recent The Bad for lowering its freelance rates from $75 to $50. The publication's photo editor, H. Rick Bamman, writes that, "We negotiate with our freelancers for each assignment." The problem may be that when freelancers don't try to negotiate, the Herald now offers them $50 instead of what used to be, $75. Either way, it's nearly impossible to be profitable with either amount.
  • The Copyright Zone is the work of attorney Ed Greenberg and photographer Jack Reznicki. The promote it as a survival blog for photographers, but I like it because of Ed and Jack's cyanotic pictures over their slogan, "Talkin' Till (sic) We're Blue In The Face."
  • Real Estate photographer Larry Lohrman has an interesting approach to pricing based on the price of repairing a furnace. I'm guessing that this works more or less well depending on whether you live in Minneapolis or Miami.
  • Kudos to photographer Dan Routh for pushing back when presented with a bad contract and coming up with a solution acceptable to both sides.