Tuesday, 1 September 2009

Todays Guardian Protest

Photographers are very proud of their contribution to their industry, not least of these, those who contribute to the Guardian and Observer newspapers (Guardian News Media).

Outside the Guardian today were a number of contributors to the Guardian. Noticeable in his support of his colleagues was former Observer Sports Photographer and multiple award winner Eamonn McCabe, who went on to become the Picture Editor of the Guardian, and cartoonist Steve Bell.

The protest at the Guardian today by photographers was one that makes me very sad. That the Guardian and Observer of all newspapers should be imposing a rights grab on their most treasured contributors (their contract photographers), not to mention anyone unfortunate enough to receive a commission from the Guardian or Observer from today, is a huge disappointment.

“On 28 July, Chris Elliott, managing editor at Guardian News & Media (GNM), wrote to freelance and contract photographers to inform them that the company would cease paying reuse fees.” See British Journal of Photography

The petition against this action, now at over 900 names gives an indication of how photographers feel, and this number is rising steadily every day.

Speakers at the rally during the protest included John Toner the NUJs Freelance Organiser, so often championing the rights of NUJ Photographer Members, Jeremy Dear, General Secretary of the NUJ, also very vocal in supporting his photographer members, Steve Bell the Guardians excellent cartoonist, supporter of his photographer colleagues, and member of the Guardian NUJ Chapel committee, and Pete Jenkins, deputy chair of the Unions Photographers Sub Committee and Freelance photographer whose first contributions to the Guardian (and Observer) were more than twenty-five years ago.

More than thirty photographers and their supporters were there to condemn GNMs unfriendly proclamation.

The NUJ report is here.

I was privaleged to be allowed to say a few words to my colleagues, and they went something like this:

“I have been a newspaper photographer all my working life, cut me and I bleed ink, that kind of thing.

I had my first picture in the Guardian more than twenty-five years ago, and I have had maybe hundreds of images used, commissioned, live and on spec since then. I have been proud to supply the Guardian as most photographers are.

But I have seen changes. Over the years fewer photographers are used, rates become stagnated, there is a higher reliance on PA for regional work, and now there are fewer photographers, fewer stringers, fewer on contract and fewer images used.

The Berliner saw a dramatic change in the Guardians use of photography, fewer images needed to fill smaller pages, and smaller images used.

This latest move shocks me. That Guardian News Mediahas so little regard for its suppliers, its photographers, also makes me sad, and I am disappointed that they should treat us in this way.

I have few images published in the Guardian (or Observer) these days, but that doesn’t affect how I feel.”

How interesting to read about the Scott Trust set up in 1935 to ensure the continuation of the Manchester Guardian.

The core purpose of the Scott Trust is:

· To secure the financial and editorial independence of the Guardian in perpetuity: as a quality national newspaper without party affiliation; remaining faithful to its liberal tradition; as a profit-seeking enterprise managed in an efficient and cost-effective manner.
· All other activities should be consistent with the central objective. The Company which the Trust owns should: be managed to ensure profits are available to further the central objective; not invest in activities which conflict with the values and principles of the Trust.
· The values and principles of the Trust should be upheld throughout the Group. The Trust declares a subsidiary interest in promoting the causes of freedom in the press and liberal journalism, both in Britain and elsewhere.

Photographers around the UK, and indeed around the world, will be wondering how this rights grab move by the GNM management fits in with the core purpose of the Trust. I wonder what John Scott would think were he alive today?

Pete Jenkins

Member of: The National Union of Journalists

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