Guild members came to the table Tuesday to stake their claim to the future of newspaper jobs.
An impressive number of staffers from advertising art joined the session in support of the Guild’s proposal on video on the Web. As part of that proposal, the union argued the advertising art staff should get the same training their newsroom counterparts receive. As the publisher has said in his recent town meetings, the Internet will become a larger and larger part of what we do.
Advertisers are seeking Web video that will enable them to place a video commercial on the newspaper’s Web site. If such videos are to be done, the Guild said, workers in advertising art want to do them and are eager to be trained. This would not only give the Company more control over the product than using an outside contractor, it would enable the Times Union to offer a consistent look to the various products it offers customers now: print and online ads, direct-mail appeals and other products.
“It’s a matter of efficiency,” said Advertising Artist Bill Blais. “Some folks have gotten their feet wet already with video post-production. Graphic artists are the right folks to prepare advertising video.”
Artist Linda Pinkans said she and her colleagues recognize this is the work of the future, and they want to do it.
“We all have an interest to further our careers,” she said.
General Manager George Hearst said it was “inspiring” to hear from the staff that they want to embrace this work.
“The Times Union takes the position that education is the cornerstone of our business,” he said. “You guys are focused on the right stuff.”
Photographers Skip Dickstein and Paul Buckowski also came to the table to discuss the Guild’s proposal. While the Guild would agree to let reporters and photographers both shoot video, the union made clear this did not replace the need for professionally trained and experienced photographers.
But the photographers also addressed the Company’s proposal to eliminate the bar on using reporters regularly as photographers and photographers regularly as reporters.
In the Internet age, the quality of photographs will be more important than ever, Dickstein and Buckowski said.
“When we get our new presses, any image that goes on that page is going to have to be high quality,” Dickstein said. As with a high-definition TV, any flaws will show. “The thing we bring that helps the Times Union brand is the quality we bring,” Buckowski said. “If you look at the photographs out of Saratoga, no one beats the images Skip brings. I don’t think you should look at it as: ‘We can send a reporter who can do the story, shoot the video and we’ll pull a still (photograph) from there.’ “
The result would be a poor story, shaky video and a weak photo, he said: “It’s not just images but great images that are going to keep people looking.”
Company officials said they might want to create a position of a “mojo” journalist who would be expected to do all of those things well, but they said they expected the need for professional photographers to remain.
Peter Rahbar, the Company’s attorney, said the final agreement on the issue might be a “hybrid” of the Company’s proposal to eliminate the prohibition on using reporters regularly to shoot photographs and the Guild’s proposal on Web video. The Guild responded that the Web video language did not require altering the longstanding language that recognizes that photography and reporting require different skill sets.