Spurs fan Mark Solomons, the boss of a long-running and successful press agency in London has every reason to be cheerful today, after his team thrashed arch rivals Arsenal 5-1 last night.
Solly will be feeling the warm glow for days to come and I can’t help but feel envious. We press agency bosses take our cheer wherever we can find it these days, since the turmoil being felt in the news industry as a direct result of the internet is impacting directly – and extremely negatively – on our businesses.
The sense of gloom and worry is deepening by the day and the closure of my own arch-rival, Newsflash, is at least partly related to the dwindling payments from the main newsapapers. Solly is also chairman of our UK-wide trade body, the National Association of Press Agencies (NAPA) and an old pal of Newsflash founder, Frank Gilbride. So when the Media Guardian asked for his views on the state of the industry, he was quick to let rip as you can read by clicking here, or on the link below
The uninitiated – those outwith the newspaper-centric media world – still generally believe in chequebook journalism. For the most part they still think newspapers pay big money for stories and that much of that must trickle down to freelances and press agencies like Deadline Press & Pictures.
So I hope the revelation that the Daily Record pays £75 for a page lead will cure them of that misconception. Indeed, from my own Daily Record days I know the page lead rate was £80 in 1995. I don’t have the know-how to work out the real term reduction from £80 in 1995 to £75 in 2008.
But I don’t want to appear as thought I’m having a go at the Record. At least they pay regularly.
Over at the Daily Express–Daily Star we are issuing reminders for payments we are due stretching back 19 months. Which means they have been totally ignored every time we have issued them during that time. It used to be the papers would rob us with terse explanations like “Not Found” or “Paid to other agency”.
However in these cases – covering hundreds of stories and pictures – the Express group have not even graced us with the courtesy of any reply whatsoever. Nineteen months worth of reminders has resulted in nothing, except us racking up staff hours, book-keeping costs and the price of stamps to add to the time and effort we expended providing them with material which was used but never paid for. Yes, it’s shameful.
All in all it is also very short-sighted view by those running the news and picture desks on these newspapers. I’m not clear who they are benefitting by failing to pay the agencies who supply words and pictures, except the shareholders and fat cats who own the media groups. The same people, in other words, who will be looking for job cuts within the papers to squeeze out further profit in a tough market.
By the time these guys realise that cheating agencies out of payments is really going to send those agencies to the wall, who is going to be left supplying news? The skeleton staff left on the papers? Yeah, right.
Sure, I don’t expect the journalists who sit on news and picture desks to wilfully burst the budgets they’ve been set and there’s only so much they can do. But likewise, in many cases, I still think of them as peers as colleagues so I hate the thought of them cutting my throat.
No-one is asking for anything other than the courtesy of basic fairness. If they can’t pay for our stuff, then they shouldn’t use it. At least then agencies would be able to concentrate on refining their businesses, rather than hopefully chasing ghost payments which the papers have no intention of honouring.