At newspapers, dwindling vision

There is somewhat depressing news from the Pew Research Center about the state of newspaper photography staffs. Well, depressing if you value them or are on one anyway.

It’s not news that newspapers are cutting back on staff. Jobs have been disappearing fairly rapidly since about 2005, affecting reporters, editors and visual journalists. Jobs for reporters really started to decline around 2005, while other categories have been more steady. As with many things though, how you look at it makes a big difference.

The Pew report includes a chart of data from the American Society of News Editors. The graph shows a pretty big decline in the number of reporting jobs, but the overall difference is a -32% change. There were a lot more reporting jobs than other categories, and there still are. The number of visual jobs started much lower, at 6,171 in 2000, and it has dropped to 3,493 in 2012. That’s a difference of -43%. So while the graph looks flatter, photography jobs have taken the hardest hit in the newsroom.

The article notes that in some cases photographers are some of the longest-serving newsroom veterans, so cutting those jobs yielded the biggest savings. But in other cases the belief that reporters or citizens can produce photographs is playing a role. And that’s where the bad news comes in terms of quality visual reporting. I’m not saying only professional photographers can make a good photograph, but people trained in visual communication can more regularly produce images that communicate depth. That should be something newspapers, and other media outlets, care about if they believe in an informed public.

You can read the article on the Pew Research Center site.

(By the way, I know I may be carrying this “vision” theme a little to far by incorporating it in every post. It won’t last forever.)