Photography At The New York Times

Posted on 6/19/2017 by Jim Pickerell | Printable Version | Comments (0)

The New York Times 2020 Group published a report in January 2017 that said its daily reporting needed to become more visual. In April it was reported the day rate for freelance assignments would jump from a previous $200 to $250 (according to some contributors) to $450, with shorter assignments “that don’t meet the full day-rate requirement” paying out at $300, still higher than the previous full day rate.

Photojournalists cheered! Did this mean that there was finally see a turn around in the photo assignment business?

Now, The Times has proposed a 20 percent reduction in photo desk staff via buyout. The letter also notes that “the majority” of photo editors won’t work on stories from start to finish, diminishing their creative input. In addition, the Times may also cut its “already reduced” staff of 16 photographers.

The NewsGuild of New York, the union representing The New York Times staffers, told members in a newsletter last week that it will fight The Times.

The NewsGuild also said, “As the Times makes changes to become a more ‘visually oriented’ news source, it is simply illogical to buy out (or ultimately lay off) one-fifth of the photo editors.” They pointed out that the photo department has earned five Pulitzer Prizes in the past four years, and added. “These changes will undoubtedly be extremely damaging to one of the most revered photo departments in the world.”

Why Is This Necessary?

The economics of the newspaper business is leaving management with few alternatives. For decades, the cost of producing a newspaper was paid for with advertising. Subscription and newsstand sales were a very minor part of total revenue. By 2011 revenue at the Times that was generated by sales of newspapers to consumers exceeded advertising revenue.

Consumer revenue, including digital sales, has continued to go up. In 2015, the Times had more then 1 million digital only subscribers, more than any other paper in the world. That number was up to more than 1.5 million in 2016 and generated more than $500 million in digital revenue.

The proposed restructuring comes as the Times appears to be strengthening its financial position. Readers have rallied around the paper since the election, increasing its paid print and digital subscriptions to more than 3 million. But all these improvements still aren’t enough to offset the more rapidly declining loses in advertising revenue.

After The Buyouts

In all likelihood some of the photographers who lose their staff positions will continue to work for the Times on a freelance basis. But, they will work fewer days and get no benefits. That may make it easier for them to work for other clients, but it will also reduce the opportunities for other freelancers.

Copyright © 2017 Jim Pickerell. The above article may not be copied, reproduced, excerpted or distributed in any manner without written permission from the author. All requests should be submitted to Selling Stock at 10319 Westlake Drive, Suite 162, Bethesda, MD 20817, phone 301-461-7627, e-mail: wvz@fpcubgbf.pbz

Jim Pickerell is founder of, an online newsletter that publishes daily. He is also available for personal telephone consultations on pricing and other matters related to stock photography. He occasionally acts as an expert witness on matters related to stock photography. For his current curriculum vitae go to:  


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