STOP Using Freelancers!

Once upon a time, news organizations had robust photo staffs that could cover the news of the day. These staffers were paid well, provided with gear, a retirement, and in turn, were loyal, and ethical, in their work. They also feared being fired for doing something wrong and so, in large part, they didn't. A staffer making $45k a year costs the organization, when all is included, between $250 and $300 a day. The AP, for example, when they pay a staffer $65k a year, and then adding in all their expenses ( office space, computers, cameras, car/mileage, 401k, health insurance, etc) comes to about $320 - $500 or so. It's no wonder they haven't replaced many staffers and are using freelancers when they cost only $200, and they get all the same rights from freelancers, as employees!

Staffers, of course, should do everything they can to discourage management from using freelancers, because, from a cost standpoint alone, the rise of the freelancer equates to the demise of the staffer - it's not like there's less news these days!

I understand that, from time to time, when there's a big news story in a region, temporary needs for freelancers arise. However, when an organization uses multiple freelancers daily, guess what? It's time to staff up! Heck, even union agreements (wherever they still exist) place limits on the frequency of freelance use for the very reason to protect staff positions.

Of course, news organizations, and the AP is just the most recent example, are suffering under the ethically challenged freelancers. Poynter did a good job of reporting on this here, and PDNPulse reported - Another Photo Manipulation Case Raises Question: Is the Penalty High Enough?, and PDN also reported on a Getty freelancer here - Photographer Cut by Getty for Altered Golf Photo Offers Explanation , and the BBC even reported about a freelancer for Reuters (here) who did the same thing.

Yes, there are organizations that need a photographer once a month or twice a year, and freelancers are good for that. Freelancers fit the bill in many instances. However, sending an ethically sound photographer on a plane trip to ensure the images are legitimate serves the long term best interests of news gathering organizations. Hoping you get good sound images from a freelancer you found from an internet search, or a friend of a friend of a friend, is no way to sustain the reputation of your news organization. I know budgets are tight, but with your organizations' reputation on the line as every freelance image moves over the wire, is it worth it?

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