One Gannett Photographers take on the US Presswire Acquisition
The Gannett (NYSE: GCI) acquisition is sure to have an adverse impact on Gannett staff photographers. To be expected will be a reduction in the Gannett organization sending it's staff photographers to games when there are 2-3 photographers already there shooting the event for a fraction of the cost they previously had for a freelancer, let alone a staffer.
One well known sports photographer (non-Gannett) sent along the following figures from the Maryland State Personnel Management System for direct an indirect costs for a $49k salaried employees, which is as follows:
EMPLOYER'S COST OF BENEFITS FOR A TYPICAL STATE EMPLOYEE IN THE STATE PERSONNEL MANAGEMENT SYSTEM (Maryland Fiscal Year 2010) (see page 18, here)
Social Security $3,979
Health Insurance** $8,528
Pension Retirement $4,541
Deferred Compensation Match $0
Workers Compensation $667
Unemployment Insurance $52
-SUBTOTAL DIRECT COSTS $17,767
Personal Leave $1,197
Annual Leave $2,993
Sick Leave $998
-SUBTOTAL INDIRECT COSTS $7,582
TOTAL COST OF BENEFITS $25,349
TOTAL COST OF SALARY & BENEFITS: $74,368
This assumes that a Gannett photographer earns $49k, and I believe their number to be significantly higher. Yet, let's consider this as a solid example on the low-side. This does not, of course, include the costs for transportation, photo equipment, and a laptop. You can reasonably expect that figure to add $6k a year, minimum, to the indirect cost of a staff photographer. So, with a salary of $49, added direct and indirect costs of $25k, and the estimated additional $6k gear allowance, you're looking at $80k a year to carry one staff photographer. Not to mention travel assignments where air/hotel/car rental/meals/etc are an added cost. Why pay an annualized cost when you need only pay the sports photographers on the days you need them, and they're local? As such, Gannett photographers who have spent most of their days covering sports should consider their days numbered, and they have much to be concerned about.
We heard from one photographer, who shared his concern as a comment on the original story we broke. He wrote:
I'm a photographer at a Gannett paper who was instructed not to talk about the Presswire deal. We are as uncertain of the future and what this deal means as the US Presswire photographers probably are.
Does this mean Gannett will stop using AP & Getty and rely exclusively on Presswire for wire sports? And use it to renegotiate lower rates? Does it mean Gannett papers will no longer contribute sports photos to the AP wire and now market them through Presswire, competing with the Presswire photographers?
Are Gannett's motives even darker? Does it mean that Gannett papers will no longer staff NFL/MLB/NHL/NBA and the like instead relying on Presswire?
Let's face it, it's a lot cheaper to send one or two US Presswire photographers to a NFL game for a flat $100 each than two staffers who in addition to their salaries get health insurance, expenses and mileage etc. By the time you stretch the math out you could probably send three Presswire people for what one staffer would cost.
Gannett's motive could be even more nefarious. Once the Presswire deal is concluded, Gannett will have a large roster of reliable freelancers at its disposal. Will they start to use them to replace staffers. If they will take $100 to work a football game maybe they'll take $25 to do a community back to school assignment? Again, much cheaper than sending a staffer.
It's interesting that neither Gannett nor Presswire have made any announcements about this yet. Rumor has it that a number of Gannett people are traveling to Virginia next week to hear about the deal and what it means. I guess we'll have to wait till then to find out what's in store. “
This staffer has made a number of astute observations, and is rightly concerned. This will have an adverse impact on every staff photographer, including those at the other wire services. With Gannett no longer needing AP/Getty for the sports package, there will be fewer photographers assigned to those games, and Reuters/AFP will also possibly see a similar impact.
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