Magazine article Editor & Publisher

Paying for Cameras

Magazine article Editor & Publisher

Paying for Cameras

Article excerpt


AS THE COST of equipping photographers continues to escalate and even smaller newspapers become increasingly dependent on color photography, the issue of "who pays" for the equipment has become a contentious one in newspaper photo departments.

Over the last few years, an ad hoc crazy quilt of equipment funding policies is emerging. Some newspapers equip their photographers with everything; others provide a camera allowance; and yet others expect staffers to purchase their own equipment, although repairs and insurance are often provided.

Freelancers, who have become increasingly important in the world of newspapers, are on their own, but many of them work mainly for onne newspaper, augmenting staff photographers in the suburbs and outlying areas. Another category is part-time staffers, who qualify for employee status, but not for fringe benefits like health insurance, much less company-supplied equipment.

The move toward digital cameras has complicated things for employers since the costs of the necessary equipment is beyond what a photographer, staff or freelance, can be expected to afford.

The Asbury Park (N.J.) Press, for instance, is going from a camera allowance to providing their staff of nine as well as seven others at a sister paper, the East Brunswick Home News & Tribune, with digital camera kits.

The decision to go totally digital in photography was made after the purchase of the newspapers by Gannett.

Even the small (37,000-daily circulation) Grand Forks (N.D.) Herald bought their four photographers digital cameras when they abandoned film. That newspaper is owned by Knight Ridder.

The camera allowances have evolved in many papers that formerly equipped their photographers, and it has accelerated the demise of the near monopoly that Nikon once had among newspaper photo departments.

Even where newspapers still equip their photographers, they are consulted on the camera system they are asked to use. When the New York Times switched from Nikon to Canon's EOS system, photographers were offered the option of staying with Nikon.

And some photographers use both. John Long, a Hartford (Conn.) Courant photographer, says he has no trouble switching between the company-provided Nikons he uses mostly and the Canon-based digital camera the paper has for certain events.

A newspaper in Alaska has a unusual spin on the camera allowance. Jim Lavrakas, an Anchorage Daily News photographer, explains a photographer is expected to have his or her own gear when hired, but at the end of a year the photographer can start to recoup 80% of up to $7,000 in equipment over the next four years - or $1,400 a year. …

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