Now it’s the turn of photographers to take their hit in the seemingly endless quest to cut costs at Australia’s newspapers.
Over the last fortnight The Australian has retrenched at least six of its most senior photographers in three state bureaus, leaving many reporters, and the remaining photographers, shocked at the speed of their removal and concerned about the future of the national broadsheet’s pictorial coverage.
The Australian’s Pictorial Editor, Milan Scepanovic has visited Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne and sacked two photographers in each city. Staff are fearful he may be on his way to Adelaide and Perth, and perhaps the Canberra Press Gallery, to retrench at least two more.
Most shocking though is that some of the paper’s most highly regarded photographers have been targeted for retrenchment.
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In Melbourne the 30-year veteran, Michael Potter, was targeted, as was David Sproule in Brisbane, with 38 years. The others — Bob Finlayson in Sydney, David Crosling in Melbourne, Patrick Hamilton in Brisbane and Carlos Furtado in Sydney — are also highly experienced.
One Australian insider told Crikey this morning that the cuts have followed increased emphasis on picture sharing with the paper’s sister tabloids in each state, describing the process of sackings as “very brutal” as some of the photographers were given just 15 minutes to clear out after decades of service.
For me personally this is sad news. I’ve worked with three of the photographers as a reporter at The Australian. They are all talented professionals and brought unique perspectives to their work. When Crosling wasn’t cynically chiding reporters for their general ineptitude, he was making opportunities for photos that others simply missed. He tells a great story about staking out Bill and Hilary Clinton on a lonely beach in northern Queensland while the rest of the pack had been hoodwinked by the President’s media minders.
Potter is cheeky and risqué but, paradoxically, has a great knack of putting subjects at ease, gentling easing them through the process of being snapped and netting great pics in the process. Sproule looks a bit like a crusty veteran. He was schooled in the tabloids but has an eye for sensitive images and a beguiling, friendly manner. I once worked with him on a story in central Australia and was impressed by the thoughtful way he captured images of frail indigenous women.
By all accounts the others are equally highly regarded.
Jonathan Este, another ex-reporter at The Australian, and now with the Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance, says the loss of these photographers greatly diminishes the media. “We’re all the poorer when people in jobs like these are lost. No one believes that anyone at the Australian is enjoying doing this (sacking people) but we would urge the managers to remember that the quality of these people’s work will be missed.”