Photo Staff Cuts Continue At Thomson Reuters

By Donald R. Winslow

TORONTO (November 20, 2014) – More members of the photography staff at Thomson Reuters have been shown the door this week as the picture service continues a downsizing that first gained public attention last summer. 

Thomas Szlukovenyi, the Picture Editor for North America, and Peter Jones, the chief photographer for Canada and the Canada and North American Sports Photo Editor, were the latest North American casualties this week at headquarters in Toronto. Prior to his current role, Szlukovenyi had at one time been the picture service's Global Picture Editor. 

The photo cuts in North America are part of a Thomson Reuters plan to eliminate jobs globally, including possibly photographers in Europe and the Middle East.

Back in August 2013 the news service launched a plan to axe all of their contract sports photographers in North America as they turned the business over to USA Today Sports Images.

Speculation now has it that Reuters is pulling money out of the still photo operation and cutting some photographer's jobs in order to put more money and emphasis behind the "television app for news junkies" that it launched at a high-dollar party last week at headquarters.

The iPhone and iPad video app is a $2 dollar a month subscription service aimed at the 30- to 40-year-old demographic. Isaac Showman, the managing director of Reuters TV, was quoted as saying the app is "a reinvention of some of the fundamental aspects of TV news. We're moving away from mass broadcasts to one that's relevant for every single user."

Just yesterday the Editor In Chief for Reuters, Steve Adler, sent a memo to staff saying that more layoffs are coming. And while the news organization's budget is being increased by only 1 percent, he said, it isn't enough to fund future growth in "initiatives that are vital to our future success." Buzzfeed also reported that part of the news operation's reorganization includes a shift to funding more growth in Reuters television as well as the new mobile video service. 

Reinhard Krause, the Thomson Reuters Global Picture Editor who runs the wire service's still photo operation, reports to John Pullman in London, who is the global editor of Reuters Video and Pictures. Some photographers at Reuters told News Photographer that recently there has been a clear shift in emphasis in the pictures operation, moving away from stills and to support the new television efforts.

For Jones, today was especially bittersweet since he was the one who had to call all of the North American contract sports photographers back in August to tell each one that they were finished

After word spread through Reuters about Jones and Szlukovenyi, this week Szlukovenyi ent a note to the staff. He said that he will remain in his post until the middle of December, and then plans to move to Europe where he will be a freelance editor for the picture service.

In February of this year Gary Hershorn, the former Global Picture Editor for Sports for Thomson Reuters, was informed that "due to changes in coverage" his position had been eliminated. He had just returned from Sochi where he had finished the Thomson Reuters coverage plan for the Olympics, and it was only 79 days before World Cup. But once he had finished putting all of their logistical plans into place, his job was axed. 

Hershorn has since moved on to work for Flipboard.

News Photographer magazine today obtained a copy of the internal memo that was sent to the Thomson Reuters photo staff this week from Krause. 

He wrote, "We have taken a number of steps this week across the Pictures organisation. These come in response to the changes in the Media landscape and the news cycle and are part of our ongoing efforts to put the operation on a firmer financial footing and to prepare it to embrace future opportunities.

"After a careful review of staffing, we have taken the always difficult decision to make reductions in a small number of select locations, with a view to ensuring the smallest possible impact on the file. 

"In addition, Tom Szlukovenyi has decided to leave the company and return to Europe. Tom has had a superb and storied career with Reuters and I would like to thank him for his excellent work the past three years overseeing the North American file. With Tom’s departure, we will be restructuring Pictures management in the Americas to bring North and South America under a single umbrella."

Krause's note also said, "It is important to stress that we do not expect the photographers who remain to do more than their existing jobs. We understand that regions affected by reductions may not be able to produce the same volume of output as before, so we will set priorities to ensure we focus on the most critical international stories as well as those images that will set us apart."

Today Jones told News Photographer that his last day will be December 19. He started as a stringer in Ottawa in 1986 when he was 19.

"It was a wonderful place to grow up and I thoroughly enjoyed the ride and all the stops along the way," Jones said. "I have always been treated well here and continue to be treated with respect as I transition to the next phase of my career. I'd like to wish my colleagues all the best going forward."

Among the more high-profile layoffs at Thomson Reuters is the legendary media critic Jack Shafer, who had been a headline hire for the news service in 2011 when they got him from Slate. Shafer told Poynter, "I'm fine. My philosophy is that the job belongs to the employer. When they want to do something else with the money, that's there prerogative."

Some reports said the original layoff plan that's being implemented now had called for cutting as many as 111 jobs. But now it may be that as few as 55 people will be cut across the organization, with nine being in the editorial operation according to a Guild memo.