All of the photographers at the Moncton Times & Transcript and Telegraph-Journal in Saint John have been laid off, union officials have confirmed.
The union representative for the Fredericton Daily Gleaner declined to comment on any cuts at that newspaper.
Jamie Irving, the vice-president and publisher of Brunswick News Inc., which owns the papers, could not immediately be reached for comment.
But Jean-Claude D'Amours, the company's regional general manager of weeklies, issued a written statement, saying the layoffs will allow Brunswick News "adjust to a new technological reality, helping to ensure that we remain competitive in a media world that is constantly changing."
"Our reporters now have the technology to quickly and easily take pictures allowing them to provide the essential elements to deliver quality content to our readers," said D'Amours.
"These staffing changes are in line with our long-term strategy of digital transition. They are also aligned with similar changes by other media publications, including Sports Illustrated," he added.
Union considering grievance
The Communications Workers of America-Canada, which represents the three affected photographers in Moncton and two in Saint John, is looking into fighting the cuts through the grievance process, said Moncton president Dwayne Tingley.
Ron Ward, Greg Agnew and Viktor Pivovarov were all notified they were losing their jobs on Monday morning, said Tingley.
The union is "devastated" and didn't see the cuts coming, he said.
It's not yet clear when the cuts take effect.
Bruce Bartlett, the CWA-Canada representative for the Telegraph-Journal, confirmed the two photographers in Saint John — Kâté Braydon and Cindy Wilson — were notified on Monday afternoon.
Stephen Llewellyn, of the Fredericton Typographical Union Local 664, who represents the Fredericton Daily Gleaner, declined to comment on the status of the one unionized photographer there.
Loss of quality journalism
Michael Camp, chair of the journalism, communications and public policy program at St. Thomas University, says there has been a shift in the way journalists work.
"The way things are going now in the marketplace in journalism, every single journalist is expected to have virtually every single journalistic skill whether that's writing a story or operating a camera."
John Lehmann, president of the News Photographers Association of Canada, describes the photographer layoffs as a loss of quality journalism.
"You're losing the ability to inform the public of much of what's going on around them. Sure, there will still be words, but there's so much that can't be captured by words," said Lehmann, who is a Vancouver-based photographer for the Globe and Mail.
'Photojournalists have a way of telling stories that no writer could ever put into words.' - John Lehmann, News Photographers Association of Canada
Photojournalism is an important part of any publication and it's what brings readers in, he said.
“All you have to do is look at something like Instagram, which has taken off and I think people find visuals very important and photojournalists have a way of telling stories that no writer could ever put into words," said Lehmann.
"And when you lay off a photojournalist and rely on untrained people, I think you really lose quality in the paper. And if you're losing quality in the paper, why would you bother to pick it up and read it?"
2 senior editors let go last month
The Moncton Times & Transcript recently lost two other employees in the wake of an internal investigation related to one editor's acceptance of a trip to Larry's Gulch, the provincial government's fishing lodge, in 2013.
Al Hogan, the managing editor of the Moncton Times & Transcript, “is no longer employed by Brunswick News” and Murray Guy, the newspaper’s assistant managing editor, has resigned.
John Wishart has been demoted from his position as editor of the Telegraph-Journal to the editor of its editorial and opinion pages.
The ethical investigation found that Guy tried to have Darell Fowlie, who served as the deputy minister of communications for former premier David Alward, alter the guest list before it was released to the media under a Right to Information request, BNI ombudsman Patricia Graham stated in a column.
A government review, ordered by Premier Brian Gallant, found an official within the tourism department suggested to the premier's office and NB Liquor that someone from the Crown agency write to tourism and state they didn't want the guest list released for competitive reasons.
Edith Doucet, the clerk of the executive council, who conducted the review, said she has "serious concern" about how the Larry's Gulch guest list documents were handled and has recommended the provincial cabinet ask the province's information commissioner to carry out a thorough examination and review.