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Lay off of photographers just the latest assault on quality journalism by Irving papers

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You’ve heard that thing about how if you put a frog in a pot of water then slowly heat it to boiling and the frog doesn’t try to jump out because the change is so gradual it doesn’t notice how bad it's getting.

That’s what came to mind yesterday when I heard that Brunswick News laid off all of its photographers.

It’s just a few more degrees of heat for those of us who read these Irving newspapers. And you have to wonder if readers notice how bad these papers are getting.

That’s not a slam on the reporters. Many are very good, and they do their best but the cumulative changes can’t help but negatively affect the journalism.

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By deciding the photographers are expendable the owners are either showing that they don’t understand that professional photography is part and parcel of a newspaper’s journalistic product, or they simply don’t care, and are telling us that second-rate photos are good enough.

This decision adds a larger burden on the reporters. Now as well as researching, doing interviews and writing their stories, they have to take supporting photography. This may not be a big deal sometimes, maybe not even often.

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But when there is breaking news with a lot of activity, that’s where professional news photographers, such as the ones who have just been shown the door, shine. Catching those moments in history, maneuvering to find the angle for that perfect photo, finding the shot that captures the human condition at its best…or worst.  These are the pictures that grab us and pull us into the story; they are the ones that stay with us; the ones we remember. They are not accidental. They are split seconds born of years of experience.

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Brunswick News' Regional General Manager explained that the move was made because reporters now have the technology to handle the photography. This shows he doesn't get it. It's not about the technology. A reporter with an iPhone is not the same as the trained eye of a photographer.  

We may not miss those shots because of course we won’t know what might have been. But there is no doubt that overall the quality of the photography in the Gleaner, TJ and Times and Transcript will be diminished.

And so will the quality of the reporting. Now Brunswick News reporters have to think about getting photography. This on top of the Brunswick News new emphasis on its website, with demands on reporters to post stories quicker, and update often.

And on top of this, there’s the quota system with its focus on quantity over quality.

The reporters are doing their best and I feel for them, but the long and short of it is that it seems every development at the Irving papers over recent times has been at the expense of quality journalism.

The owners are banking on the fact that as readers we’re okay with that. We are the frog in the boiling water. 

 

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