Freedom? Try One Final Mistake...

My last day on the job at the Gallup Independent should have been all easy and relaxed.I gave myself a morning assignment to drive 25 miles north to Tohatchi and get some photos of a volleyball camp. Pretty low stress event. Hang around for a while to get two or three types of drills and pack it up. I arrived at the school shortly after 10 am. Grab my Nikon D2h, a couple of light stands, strobes and pocket wizards, then proceed to the gym and set things up.

Now, in the entire history of my working for newspaper I have never, ever, not a single time, found myself in the spot I was today. I set up my camera, reached into my pocket for a memory card, and it wasn't there. This was not a big deal, I just dropped it into one of the pockets of my camera bag. I dig around for a while and still can't find it. Still not much of a concern, as I know I have a couple of cards with my extra gear and camera in the trunk of my car.

For 45 minutes I tore apart my car, my camera bags, anyplace that I might have a memory card. I found three. All of them SD cards for my little Nikon D80. The problem with using them? The D80 is on the shelf in my closet at home. There was no way around it - I had to leave Tohatchi, drive the 30 minutes back to the office, grab a memory card from the desk - then drive back to the gym.

Doing the math - I spent 45 minutes digging for the card, which put me leaving the gym at 10:45. Drive to the office and back took an hour. So I walk in to the gym at 11:45. I grab a few frames of the instructor demonstrating some serving skills, when she announces, completely on-time, lunch. For an hour. And she is not coming back after lunch, and the other coach will take over.

Yes, I made a couple of photos for the sports section, but I was disappointed that I did this to end my newspaper career.


So Long, and Thanks for all the Pix. . .

Yes, the title of the post is a deliberate play on the Douglas Adams book title. The dolphins left the planet right before it was to be destroyed. The Earth's time was limited. Now, so is mine.

Friday afternoon I turned in my two week notice and am resigning as the senior photographer for the Gallup Independent.

Why? Eleven plus years is a very long time to spend at a small, daily newspaper like this. My original plan was to work here for 18-24 months. Next, I would do the traditional thing and move up the chain to a medium size newspaper. Things kept coming up that kept me here in Gallup; like my wife's acceptance to a graduate program, or getting custody of my daughter. Each time I thought, "NOW it has to be time to leave." Obviously God had other plans for me, as I am still here.

The newspaper world is being sucked toward an event horizon. There is a black hole that no matter can escape. I have grown so tired of the way things were managed at the newspaper here, and staying at the GI was not an option for me. Moving on to another newspaper is not very promising either. So,with a lot of encouragement from my wife and others here in my life, I made the decision to leave journalism altogether.

Does this really sound like the type of employment that you would like to be working in?

L.A. Times to Cut 250 Jobs, 150 in Newsroom

Tampa Tribune Lays off 11 newsroom employees, 10 more may be cut

And also from Tampa: Photographers told to REAPPLY for their jobs!!!

Hartford Courant to Cut 60 Newsroom Jobs

The Baltimore Sun to Cut 100 Jobs via buyouts, Layoffs

Fort Worth Star-Telegram to eliminate 15 positions

McClatchy to cut 1,400 jobs (includes 130 at Star Telegram)
Second Story about McClatchy

The Daily News (Galveston County) reduces staff by 12, and 3 contract

The New York Post braces for "bloodbath" - 70 accept buy-outs; 30 cuts expected

Palm Beach Post to cut 300 jobs - including 130 newsroom
Additonal article on the Palm Beach Post
(From the article)"

The Post is just the latest newspaper to shrink its staff as readers and advertisers shift their time and money to the Internet. The Miami Herald said last week that it would cut 17 percent of its staff. The St. Petersburg Times last month announced buyouts and said layoffs are possible later this year, and the Fort Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel, Orlando Sentinel, Tampa Tribune and Florida Times-Union in Jacksonville also have cut jobs.

"We are the last major Florida newspaper to implement staff reductions," Franklin said.

San Jose Mercury News cut staff by 50

Chicago Tribune cuts 80 newsroom jobs (fourth round of cuts since late 2005)

Columbian (Washington state) cuts 20 jobs
Additional story about Columbian

Washington Post (Seattle) eliminates 200 jobs

Salt Lake, Utah - Deseret News sells property to fund 35 layoffs

New London, CT - The Day freezes wages, lays off 21 full-time, 17 part time

Albuquerque Tribune CLOSES completely - no buyers found


I guess that's enough... you get the idea. I remember several years ago when I lived in Minneapolis a radio station was changing format (ownership too?) and for 24 hours straight the station played one song over and over - R.E.M.s' It's the end of the World as We know It.



PRCA - Pro Rodeo on the Rez

While there is still controversy over the Junior High School rodeo finals that Wrangler is hosting in Gallup, that does not mean a shortage of rodeo action here in the Southwest. In the neighborhing town of Grants, NM they are havin their 83rd Annual event. My assignment for the evening is coverage of the PRCA rodeo performance in Window Rock, Arizona.

Glen Clark quickly turns his assigned steer to the ground, pinning it in 3.9 seconds Thursday evening during the PRCA Professional Rodeo at the Dean C. Jackson Arena in Window Rock, Ariz.

Jerad Schlegel keeps his left arm extended while riding a horse named Spitfire to score 72 points during the PRCA Professional Rodeo Thursday evening at the Dean C. Jackson Arena in Window Rock, Ariz.

Dean McIntyre, of Wickenberg, Ariz., digs in his heels and wrestles his steer to the ground in 6.4 seconds Thursday evening during the PRCA Professional Rodeo at the Dean C. Jackson Arena in Window Rock, Ariz.

Cody Glover grabs hold of his assigned steer's horns and wrestles it to the ground in 4.9 seconds.


Pay to Play? No Way

The following story appeared on our sports page July 1st, 2008. As of yet the web site for the GI does not have the story listed (we do not publish the whole paper on-line, only a few selected stories).

After several years of providing free coverage and free publicity for the Wrangler Jr. High School Finals Rodeo, this year the organizers decided that news media are not allowed into the arena for "safety reasons", and for not wanting to have too many photographers on the arena floor. Yeah. Last year aside from our paper and the weekly paper in town, the only photographers in the arena were the ones that Wrangler contracted. We shared images with the Associated Press and gave national coverage to this event as a result.

The thing that gets me, is if we were pay them and be sponsors this would not be an issue and we would have arena access. My guess is the real reason behind this policy is the contract photographers felt we were costing them sales of prints.

Anyway, here is what the sports editor wrote:

Photographer ban means no coverage
By Alan Arthur
Sports Editor
Sports coverage in the summer for many newspapers includes the basics like baseball, summer camps and all the outdoor activities that come with warm weather. At the Independent, one of our main sports is rodeo — lots and lots of rodeo.

With that coverage comes some of the best rodeo photos you can find in any newspaper. Be it the Lions Club Rodeo, the Navajo Nation PRCA Rodeo, the Ceremonial Rodeo or any of the other rodeos around the area, you can depend on excellent photography.

But not this week.

I am sorry to say that the Independent is unable to provide its usually strong coverage of the Wrangler Junior High School Finals Rodeo that will take place at Red Rock Park through the week. It was a difficult decision to make but the Independent feels that this is the only course that can be taken. This is unfortunate for all the rodeo fans in town for this event, but it is even sadder for the young competitors who have fought so hard to reach this event that they would not be able to read their names or see their photos in the Independent.

And the reason is simple — censorship.

The National High School Rodeo Association has decided that only their official NHSRA contractors and sponsors will be issued photo passes for the Wrangler and the National High School Rodeo Finals in Farmington. The 2008 WJHFR Media Personnel Rules and Regulations states in bold capital letters that ‘NO UNAUTHORIZED PHOTOGRAPHY IN THE ARENA WILL BE ALLOWED.’

It further states that “All media wishing to obtain photographs of the rodeo performances may do so in the ‘Media Office.’”

This is censorship, pure and simple. The Independent has been restricted to only using the photos that the WJHFR provides to the media. While the association may find this acceptable, the Independent and other respectable media outlets do not.

Reporters and photographers are allowed access to the rodeo where the association permits them to be. But our photographers would be severely hampered in being able to provide the excellent photography rodeo fans in this area have come to expect by trying to take photos from the grandstand. And it must be emphasized that this is a city-owned park that we are talking about.

The NHSRA’s media coordinator Mike Hausman said that the restrictions are for safety reasons. Yet, in all the time our photographers have covered rodeos, including this past week at the Lions Club Rodeo, there has yet to be an injury to a competitor, rodeo official or our own photographer due to their negligence. Independent photographers know how to cover rodeo safely.

It’s true that we would still be able to run stories on the rodeo without the photos, but complete coverage of this event requires good writing and good photography. Restricting one area of the journalism process attacks the entire process. What comes next? Will the association feel that it has to read all stories regarding the rodeo before they can run in the newspaper?

Last year, the Independent ran numerous photos and stories on the rodeo, not only on local athletes but on out-of-town athletes as well. That also included running the schedule and complete results every day.

That won’t happen this year, unless the WJHFR changes its censorship policies.