Dallas Morning News Photo Director Snyder Takes Belo Buy-Out

Sep 1, 2006

DALLAS, TX - Dallas Morning News director of photography William D. Snyder, a three-time Pulitzer Prize-winning photojournalist, was one of three people in the newspaper's photography department to take buy-outs offered by Belo Corporation, Snyder said today. The others were a picture editor and a part-time lab technician.

Photojournalist William D. Snyder, Dallas Morning News"The Dallas Morning News has shown an incredible amount of confidence and respect for the photography department," Snyder told News Photographer magazine. "There are no bad reasons for leaving. But it's time, the offer was good, and there are interesting opportunities out there." Snyder, who had been at the newspaper for 23 years, had been named director of photography on March 22, 2005.

Snyder, 47, said rumors that the publisher wanted the photography department to go "all video" were absolutely not true, and that the video initiative the newspaper is taking did not have anything to do with his decision to leave the newspaper.

"Despite working hard to put the department in this position and the great year I think they are going to have, I just felt it was the right time to move on," he said. "I've been here 23 years. They've been really, really great. I've had a wonderful career here as both a photographer and an editor and couldn't really ask for much more."

Belo is offering two weeks base pay for each year of continuous employment for up to 15 years of work, and three weeks of base pay for each year exceeding 15. Belo also says that an additional lump-sum payment equal to 12 months of the employee’s currently applicable COBRA health care premium is included in the offer.

"They believe that visual journalism is an important part of the newspaper and the Web, and they understand that we are a very talented department and one of the best in the country. We won two Pulitzers in three years and they want us to continue to be successful."

Snyder said he's worked very diligently with the newspaper's deputy managing editor, Walt Stallings, to position the photo department to move ahead with video and multimedia. "With David Leeson and Leslie White leading these areas, we expect to be an industry leader. Management, including the publisher, has shown great support for that vision. All things considered at this time, I could not expect more," Snyder said.

On August 10, newsroom employees at The Dallas Morning News were handed packages with details of a “voluntary severance” program offered by Belo Corporation, which hopes to cut at least 85 newsroom jobs from the newspaper that’s won eight Pulitzer Prizes since 1986.

Included with the details was news that layoffs were possible “if voluntary severance participation does not match the paper’s strategic realignment goals.” In other words, if enough people don’t take the buy-out then Belo’s goal of cutting at least 85 jobs may be reached through other means.

"Photo obviously wasn't going to be untouched by the buy-outs and budget cuts, but management has recognized the great work that we've done and have been very sensitive to what we want to accomplish in the coming years," Snyder said.

Snyder said the photography department's current head count is 50, "but that includes a couple of part-time lab positions."

Belo said in an earlier press release that the voluntary buy-out program was “part of a broad organizational realignment, adapting print and online products to reflect evolving, fundamental changes in the use of media by consumers and advertisers in the Dallas/Fort Worth area.”

The Dallas Morning News said there were 500 employees in editorial, including their interactive department, metro, investigative, business, sports, general news, art and lifestyles staff, and photography departments. The job cuts will reduce editorial staff by about 17 percent.

The paper’s editor, Bob Mong, said in the eariler Belo news release that a smaller editorial staff would be reorganized to cover and emphasize local news, and a newsroom reorganization will be announced in November. Belo says The Dallas Morning News is America’s 10th largest newspaper with a print and online audience of 2.1 million. Belo Corporation has 7,700 employees and more than $1.5 billion in annual revenues from 19 television stations, seven cable news channels, four daily newspapers, and 30 Web sites.

Newsroom employees had until the end of August to consider the offer. Employees had to tell Belo whether they accepted or rejected the offer during a period from August 24 through August 30. From August 30 through September 14, managers will consider employee acceptances of the offer and confirm or reject them. September 15 will be the final day of work for most employees who take the voluntary severance if it’s accepted by managers.