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Portions of this column were originally written for the May 2015 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.

May 2015, Volume 137
By Mark Loundy

"I am the master of my fate:
I am the captain of my soul."

— William Ernest Henley, "Invictus" 1875

NPPA vice-president Melissa Lyttle was a staffer for the Tampa Bay Times for just shy of a decade. She'd survived several rounds of layoffs, but still never saw herself as ever being a freelancer.

...Master of my fate... Last September, she was called into a brief meeting and was given the choice of accepting a buyout or being terminated immediately. A couple of weeks later, she joined the ranks of the unemployed. Boom. It happened just that fast.

I've written several times about layoffs and publications closing their doors and entire markets vanishing. But I haven't written about what happens to the people involved in those economic traumas.

Lyttle took to her personal blog to talk about how her first six months of being an independent photographer have been going. She details the emotions, (she went through the five stages of grief in one day) and the practical, (keep an emergency fund.)

She also outlines how she plans downtime into her schedule as a way of maintaining personal balance.

I've read plenty of "how to freelance" articles, but Lyttle's posting has a fresh, personal approach and, not surprisingly, fits the perspective of newspaper photographers perfectly. In 1800 words, her "6 Months Into Freelancing, 6 Lessons Learned (the hard way)" posting is a recipe for how to survive moving from the staff to the freelance world.

After six months, Lyttle says that she is happier than when she was a staffer because of a much larger degree of self-determination. Apparently there is something to be said for being the master of your fate.

The Good
Bullet Nope. None.

The Bad
Bullet The New York Daily News for using the same stock image of a classroom to illustrate six different stories — including one about an attempted murder.

The Ugly
Bullet Gannett-owned Newsquest for charging UK students 120 for the "privilege" of writing for its London-based online newspaper.
Bullet Patent troll Michael Garofalo for suing a video contest website over a patent for online photography contests. Luckily, the Electronic Frontier Foundation is defending the website's owner.
Bullet Gannett, again, for its executives' tone-deaf lip-synch of the Lego Movie song "Everything is Awesome." Things are far from awesome for the many people that the company has laid-off.
Bullet The Santa Barbara News-Press for its latest execrable act: The firing of a staffer for reporting unsafe working conditions in its offices. According to a story in the Santa Barbara Independent, 25-year veteran News-Press photographer Mike Eliason was terminated after reporting what appeared to be mold and mildew infestations to the California Office of Health and Safety.

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.

Leftovers
  • Last month, I opened this column with the definition of schadenfreude, as "enjoyment obtained by the suffering of others." A cousin to schadenfreude is, "I told you so."
    When the Orange County Register announced, a few years back, that it was going to swim against prevailing wisdom and double-down on print. They hired a ton of journalists and even started editions in Long Beach and Los Angeles to go head-to-head with Digital First Media's properties there. Oh yes, and the L.A. Times too.
    Along with other industry observers, I wanted to see a journalism company do well. So, although I was pessimistic about their business model, I uncharacteristically held my tongue and I didn't tell you so.
    In March, the Register closed its Long Beach and LA editions and its two owners stepped down from their executive duties. The publisher — a former casino marketing manager — assumed the company leadership.
    I feel only sadness.
  • If you felt the competition from crowdsourced media before; get ready for a whole new world of pressure. Capture is a new website that allows users to search multiple social media sites at one time for images relating to news events. Users still have to contact the photographer for reuse permission, but the crowdsourced competition just got a whole lot bigger.