CWA Canada intends to fight in whatever way possible the unexpected decision by Brunswick News to ditch all of its photographers at two of its three daily newspapers in the province.

Calling it “another bleak day for journalism,” president Martin O’Hanlon said he would be consulting with the leaders of two Locals, the Typographical Unions in Moncton and Saint John, about filing grievances.

“We will continue to fight to preserve professional journalism and local jobs” at all of the newspapers where CWA Canada represents employees, said O’Hanlon. “How do you produce a quality newspaper without your own photographers?”

Six photography staff, five of them CWA Canada members, will be axed at the Moncton Times & Transcript and the Telegraph-Journal in Saint John.

The unionized photographer at The Daily Gleaner “has not been laid off at this time,” said Steve Llewellyn, president of the Fredericton Typographical Union. The Local’s five-year contract expired at the end of October 2014 and, while no date has been set for negotiations to begin, “layoffs are not permitted during contract talks,” he added.

Llewellyn said he and his union colleagues at the Gleaner are “saddened and disappointed by the photography layoffs announced in Saint John and Moncton on Monday.”

“The entire newsroom is devastated by the wiping out of our photography department,” said Dwayne Tingley, president of the Moncton Typographical Union. “Chief photographer Greg Agnew and staff photographers Ron Ward and Viktor Pivovarov have all been with the company for close to 20 years and they were, in many respects, the face of the company in the community.”

Tingley explained, “With shrinking newsrooms, most reporters rarely leave their desks; they must get their stories on the phone and through emails. This meant the photographers were sent to every event — from highway crashes to basketball games to high school graduations. People in the community knew all three of these guys and they liked and respected them.”

“Their loss will seriously impact the product,” said Tingley. “Untrained reporters taking shots on their smartphones can’t compare with professionals with proper equipment. Most of us, even me, can get a shot of a politician on a podium at the Rotary Club. It takes a real pro to get the shot of the politician running away from the podium.”

He also noted that it was Pivovarov who took the photo of the gun-wielding man who fatally shot three RCMP officers in Moncton last year. The Mounties distributed the image as part of their efforts to track him down.

“Viktor is a committed professional. He on that occasion — and all three photographers on many others — have been willing to put themselves in harm’s way,” in order to do their jobs, said Tingley.

Two photographers at the Telegraph-Journal, Kâté Braydon and Cindy Wilson, were notified Monday afternoon that they were being let go, said Bruce Bartlett, president of the Saint John Typographical Union.

Through Brunswick News, the powerful Irving family owns every English-language daily, a majority of community/weeklies and most of the French-language newspapers in the province.

John Lehmann, on staff at The Globe and Mail and president of the News Photographers Association of Canada, told CBC News that the Brunswick News layoffs mean 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,” Lehmann said.

“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?”

That loss of quality was evident two years ago, after Sun-Times Media laid off its entire photo staff at the Chicago Sun-Times and its sister newspapers in the suburbs. (Of the 28 photojournalists fired, 17 were protected by the collective agreement with the Chicago Newspaper Guild. Less than a year later, four of the 17 were re-hired.)

Here’s What It Looks Like When You Replace Photographers With iPhone-Wielding Reporters’ was published at in July 2013. The article recounts how a freelance photographer compared the Sun-Times’ visual presentations with those of its competitor, the Chicago Tribune, which still has staff photographers.

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