Over the past few days at the Herald Sun, a Crikey tipster says picture editor Cameron Tandy has been making his way across the newsroom. The word is he has been handing out cameras to reporters with the instruction to “get familiar with them”.

This would cause quite a stir at the union. News photography is a prized and highly valued skill in newsroom — even if the photographers are sometimes, as Gold Walkley winner Andrew Quilty recently said, “second-class citizens” — and the thought of it being handed off to unskilled reporters potentially making (more) photographers redundant is turning stomachs.

We asked Tandy about the tip, who shrugged it off. “All our reporters already have cameras in the form of smartphones and for some time now they’ve been using them to take photos and video which, on occasion, have been published online and in print,” he told Crikey, adding: “One reporter was recently provided with a digital camera while going on a country road trip. But a staff photographer also went on the trip. We remain committed to press photography in all of its forms.”

It’s a time of heightened tension at the News Corp tabloids. As tends to happen at News Corp, the redundancy round announced just over a month ago has all but concluded. Some of those to take packages have already left the building.

The tabloids — historically the company’s money-spinners — have taken the brunt of the 42-odd redundancies the company was targeting. The Daily Tele was was the hardest hit, though the Herald Sun wasn’t too far behind. The Australian lost a small handful of roles.

Crikey is told the Herald Sun contributed 14 redundancies to the total — mostly voluntary, but a small number were forced. The Mercury in Tasmania lost six roles, and the Geelong Advertiser 2. Another 18 have come from the Daily Tele (as has been previously reported), which completed its round a little earlier — the features desk was hard hit, with food writers, photographers, subeditors and designers also on the way out. Three more staff put their hand up (and were given) redundancies at the Adelaide Advertiser.

Going back a few months, News Corp scribes might have figured they’d be the last ones standing as Fairfax, their major competitor, cuts deep into its newsrooms. The picture isn’t looking quite so rosy now. As one scribe said, “the whole industry’s going down the tubes”. — Myriam Robin

This piece was updated with information about redundancies at the Adelaide Advertiser

Peter Fray

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