Tag Archives: photographers

The Anonymous Photographer

By Casey Bukro

A young freelance photographer who has tight connections with local law enforcement and fire departments submits a photo of a fire in a private business to an Arkansas newspaper but refuses a photo byline.

An editor of the newspaper asked the Ethics AdviceLine for Journalists whether his refusal was unethical? Should the photographer have taken the photo, and if the photographer had unfair advantage in taking it, should the newspaper use it?

The AdviceLine advisor pointed out that the case raises issues of transparency, accountability and conflicts of interest, but that the bigger issue was the newspaper’s lack of guidelines for dealing with bylines and credits. The newspaper in question was one of a group of newspapers lacking a code of ethics or standards.

For starters, the advisor suggested that the editor consult the Society of Professional Journalists code of ethics “because the code has many guidelines about what she was asking.”

The editor pointed out that “these papers are small and some newspaper personnel work for volunteer fire departments, then take photos while they are on the job — photos that eventually appear in the paper.”

The editor said that she and the rest of the staff planned a meeting to create guidelines and discuss the SPJ code. That resulted in a decision to use “special to” credits for photos submitted exclusively to the newspaper by outside sources.

Picture This, A Newspaper With No Photographers

By Casey Bukro

Journalists are hardened by now to the continuous drumbeat of layoffs and cutbacks ripping through journalism these days, so it’s not easy to shock them.

But many were shaken by the news that the Chicago Sun-Times laid off its entire staff of 28 full-time photographers, planning to use freelance photographers and reporters to shoot pictures.

It’s ironic, really. The Sun-Times is a tabloid, dating to 1844, which built a powerful reputation on the smart and creative use of photos. Of the eight Pulitzer Prizes won by the paper, two were for photography. It was known as a picture newspaper.

What was management thinking? In a statement, it said the “business is changing rapidly and our audiences are consistently seeking more video content with their news.” Their vision is a video newspaper. Management usually has the final word in such matters.

Sun-Times reporters joined the laid-off photographers in a peaceful demonstration outside the newspaper building. The Society of Professional Journalists code of ethics says everyone, including our colleagues, is deserving of respect.

The laid-off photographers are taking it like the professionals they are.

But how many set-backs can a great newspaper take?

When Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp. bought the Sun-Times in 1984, it was recast in the gaudy Murdoch image, complete with bikini-clad pinups. It was his idea of what sells newspaper. Murdoch seriously misjudged Chicago, thinking it was a blue-collar town of steel workers. Some of his star columnists defected in disgust. And they keep going.

After selling off assets, Murdoch sold the Sun-Times and left it weakened.

In 1994, the Sun-Times was bought by a company controlled by Canadian-born press baron Conrad Black. In 2007, Black was convicted of fraud and stealing $60 million from company stockholders, and sent to jail.

And now, new management is set to work its magic. Let’s hope the Sun-Times catches a break this time. It could use one.