By: Dorothy Ho
(Photo District News) Free-lance photographers are upset over The New York Times‘ decision to cut its $100 digital transmission fees beginning March 1. For several years, the newspaper has paid freelancers a $100 transmission rate on top of its $200 day rate.
Photographers were informed of the change in letters and faxes sent in early February. In the letter dated Feb. 6, Picture Editor Margaret O’Connor explained that the transmission fee was started as a way to financially support freelancers’ purchase of digital transmission equipment. “These payments no longer serve their original purpose since digital transmission is now both cost effective and commonplace,” she wrote. When contacted, she said there has been “a limited response” from photographers, and that the paper has no plans to reverse its decision.
Will Waldron, a Times free-lancer for the past three years, calls the decision “ironic” since many photographers, like himself, have just bought digital equipment and are still paying for it. The New York photographer said: “The starting costs to go digital is $6,000. It’s a bunch of change and free-lance photojournalists don’t make a lot. That’s a big blow.” Digital transmission costs are legitimate, and there is “no way to really recoup” the loss, he said. Waldron hopes the Times will reconsider its decision. “You’re really in a bind, you have to take the assignments,” he said. “If you don’t, 10 other people are willing to do the job.”
Photographer Brian Smale, based in Seattle, wrote a letter to O’Connor, saying that he was disappointed with the Times‘ decision. “To expect the free-lancer to shoulder the full burden of these expensive new technologies, that do nothing but increase profits at the Times, is both arrogant and near-sighted,” Smale said.
Seth Resnick, the president of Editorial Photographers, said the move is “shortsighted” on the part of the newspaper. When Resnick free-lanced for the Times 18 years ago, he used to make $300 a day. “To find out that these people are working for one third less, and then they have to eat this expense, with [the Times‘] ad rate increasing every year, is so incredibly wrong,” he said.
Los Angeles-based shooter Edward Carreon has told the editors he will not shoot after March 1 if the cuts remain. “People think [the Times] is important, but it doesn’t feed me, my family, and doesn’t pay my bills,” he said.