Wednesday, 14 January 2009

Day out in London

Why is it trains promise so much and yet these days never seem quite to make it? Travelling down to London yesterday from Nottingham, I was looking forward to one of those nice new squeaky clean trains with plug sockets to enable me to use the laptop, end edit some photographs.

But oh no, what I got instead was one of the older trains – luck of the draw.

Coming back from St Pancras, I thought I had struck it lucky when I was in the front of the queue for the 8.15pm train, which not only was an express, (third stop Nottingham), but was also one of the new High Speed Trains, Great Stuff. Trouble is once passengers were eventually allowed on board, the heating wasn’t working and the sockets weren’t powered up.

Such a shame.

However, at least the train arrived back on time :-)

Yesterday, I attended the NUJ's Freelance Industrial Council. This is the body of elected freelances that deal with 'Freelance' issues within the Union, plan strategy etc. The Council is serviced by the Freelance Office run by John Toner the Freelance Organiser and the assistant Freelance Organiser Pamela Morton.

It was a day-long meeting in London at the NUJ HQ. One of the most productive decisions made was to look at ways of assisting members find new outlets for their work, other than the traditional newspapers and magazines.

With the public knowledge that the Telegraph and Independent newspapers are cutting payments made to photographers, the excuse given being the financial situation, (those very same fees that have hardly changed in fifteen years), one can see that Newspapers are in severe difficulties. We all have known that the regional press was 'under the cosh' for some time, and many photographers (including myself) ceased supplying the local press years ago, but it was clear even then that the national would soon follow.

Staff photographer levels are at an all time low and even those left have to be asking themselves, how long it will be before they find themselves out of a job, or invited to re apply for their own position at a lower pay rate?

Freelance budgets are easily cut, and there are many publications now that profess to have no freelance budget at all (doesn’t stop many of them trying to get pictures though!).

The very big agencies are still in operation, though with them all covering much the same events, and supplying the same generic material, it remains to be seen how long they will be able to maintain operations at their current level.

As the papers cut back as they inevitably will, the agencies will have less pie to fight over. Where will it all end?

Already in the local press it would appear that there are no full-time professional photographers left. Those that still service the regional newspaper sector can only afford to do so because they get the bulk of their money elsewhere.

Regional press has now become the preserve of the aspirant part-timer and the amateur, citizen journalist. Is it a matter of time now before the national go the same way?

I think that this is a tragedy.

(c) 2009 Pete Jenkins

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