Photographers at Orlando Sentinel must reapply for their jobs

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It’s just been a bad, bad week for newspapers in Florida.

In addition to the financial tumult at the Tampa Bay Times, there is some embarrassing news coming from the Orlando Sentinel. According to the National Press Photographers Association, photographers at the Sentinel have been told they’ll have to reapply for their jobs, which will largely be “videocentric.”

According to the NPAA:

Staff photographers at the Orlando Sentinel have been told that their old jobs are gone and that they ha(d) until Friday to apply for new jobs that are now available, which will be more “videocentric” with an emphasis on getting more video published on the newspaper’s website.

On March 10 the photographers will be told which job – if any – they have been given. And the photography staff changes will be implemented by March 17, a member of the Sentinel’s staff told NPPA’s News Photographer magazine.

Todd Stewart, the newspaper’s design, graphics and multimedia editor who is the senior manager responsible for supervising the photography department, told the shooters during a meeting on Monday that the new job definitions will center on video. The gathering was Stewart’s very first meeting with the photography staff. 

The restructuring impacts 13 jobs, including the photography director’s position, and the staff photographers were told that the new jobs are open only to internal applications. No one outside the Sentinel can apply for the slots, although people in other Sentinel departments are free to apply. 

“Where the real squeeze will happen is that they currently have nine staff photographers who shoot stills, and in the new job definitions there will only be five positions where that’s what the person does primarily,” a Sentinel journalist said. 

“There are two new positions defined as ‘mobile photojournalists’ who will be shooting video in the field on iPhones or iPads, not using DSLR cameras, and posting video to the Web. And there will be two video editing positions, two video coordinator positions, and two manager’s positions.” There are already two existing full-time video positions in the photography department.

The goal of the upheaval, the shooters were told, is to increase the quantity of video on the newspaper’s Web site and to increase their viewers.

Kenneth Irby, Poynter senior faculty for visual journalism and diversity, was asked about these changes by his colleague Kristen Hare and said by email that the move to have photographers reapply for jobs is a “continued devaluing of quality photographic reporting in American newsrooms.”

“It is worth noting that this is not the first example of such and seems to be a current trend within Tribune company and there is no instance, to my knowledge, where an upside of having photojournalist reapply for their jobs has been reported,” he said. 

Hare has more on the Sentinel‘s moves here.

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including SaintPetersBlog.com, FloridaPolitics.com, ContextFlorida.com, and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. SaintPetersBlog has for three years running been ranked by the Washington Post as the best state-based blog in Florida. In addition to his publishing efforts, Peter is a political consultant to several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella.