Monday, June 11, 2007

Sun photgraphers withhold bylines

Photographers begin a three-day byline strike to protest a Tribune bargaining proposal that would require photographers and reporters to do each other's jobs. In a Guild flyer to members announcing a Tuesday noon rally and calling for a membership meeting Thursday, Guild leaders said:

The photographers believe this proposal is misguided and will only lower The Sun’s standard of high quality still and video images that the photographers work so hard to maintain. Editor Tim Franklin told the bargaining committee the new job is aimed at assigning reporters to take photographs and videos, reminding us that, “…we live in this YouTube world.”

The photographers understand the Sun’s need for ‘flexibility,’ but believe the technological demands for more photographs and video images should be provided, not by journalists with little or no photographic training (who are already bogged down with extra reporting duties), but by highly skilled photojournalists. Our current contract gives management ample flexibility to add supplemental photography by reporters, such as the breaking news coverage provided by police reporters. As The Sun’s photojournalists wrote in a letter to Franklin last week, the company’s proposal “is a recipe for mediocrity. Juggling note taking and picture taking will guarantee that key moments for both will be missed.”

We hope this week’s byline strike will encourage the company to rethink this proposal - which is clearly not good for the future of photojournalism or for The Sun - and take it off the table.
Companies have for years tried to figure out ways of making reporters photographers and photographers reporters. Though it varies local to local, agreements have been reached that, like the current BS/Guild contract, give the company flexibility but preserves the skill and expertise required of each position. At some papers, Guild locals enjoy the opportunity to apply multiple skills to their work. The problem arises when burdensome multi-tasking creates pressure in time and resources that may enhance one skill at the expense of the other.

Our experience with collective bargaining with today's employers is that while the employer creates proposals they claim will create efficencies, they don't generally know how their proposal will work in real time. Guild members regularly provide the solutions that both sides can work with.

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