The Loundy Doctrine
I found an old plastic
container of corn masa while cleaning our pantry. Inside were the remains
of a tiny moth. It had hatched, lived out its entire life and died thinking
that the universe consisted entirely of corn masa bounded by plastic
It reminded me of aspiring newspaper staff photographers who accept
near-slave-labor arrangements with newspapers in hopes that they will
get that "next staff opening." Like that moth, they are isolated
and know little of the real world.
Q. Why would a small newspaper hire a staffer for $675 a week (including
benefits) when they could get the same work for $350 from a freelancer?
Plus they can get rid of the freelancer instantly without cost or legal
A. They wouldn't. That's why staffs have been shrinking and more and
more work is being contracted-out.
The Loundy Doctrine:
"Freelance fees should be higher than the pro-rated cost of paying
a staffer." Anything less encourages the permanent elimination
of all staff jobs and is destructive to the industry. How much should
that be? According to The Loundy Doctrine (TLD) if a major-metro is
paying its staffers $1500 a week in pay and benefits that translates
to a minimum day rate of $300 plus expenses for one-time rights. If
you figure-in lost revenue for a WFH contract, the number should go
up at least three times - much more for events like the Super Bowl or
the Academy Awards, which have very high resale potentials. At the same
time, a small newspaper that pays its staffers $450 a week in base pay
would end up paying its freelancers about $135 per day. But even that
would have to be carefully balanced against the freelancer's cost of
Two things the NPPA can do:
* Adopt The Loundy Doctrine as a prime mission. They don't even have
to use my name. Send it out in PR releases and fold it into educational
programs. Officially condemn employers who do not adopt it, as shortsighted,
greedy and as enemies of the industry. Right now, that list would include
most publications on the planet.
* Condemn Work-for-Hire clauses. The eventual elimination of photo staffs
is the prime motivation behind WFH contracts: Publications get "employees"
at a bargain rate and avoid all the muss and fuss of actually hiring
them. Heck, they can probably slash the HR staffs too.
Staff photographers should be terrified every time they see a freelancer
hired at below-TLD rates. Every assignment produced for chickenfeed
is just more proof to publication managers that photo staffs are an
Be afraid, staffers. Be very afraid. This is not just about freelancers.
Not a single one submitted.
Dig deep folks. We really need to give brownie points to the clients
who do it right.
The Austin American-Statesman for its all-rights-forever-and-ever-plus-use-of-the-photographer's-likeness
contract. It also has an always-deal breaking indemnification clause.
But you do "retain" the copyright. (sigh)
Elegant Bride Magazine for offering "editorial credit" as
Please let me know
of any particularly good, bad or ugly dealings that you have had with
clients recently. I will use the client's name, but I won't use your
name if you don't want me to. Anonymous submissions will not be considered.
Please include contact information for yourself and for the client.
Just in case you were thinking about signing a WFH contract for a "minor"
job, remember the quickie job Wylie Gustafson did six years ago. Wylie
is a singer for a country band and was hired to do a two-second vocalization
for a TV commercial. He was paid $590 for the use of his voice in that
Imagine his surprise when the client used it thousands of times since
then - including Super Bowl broadcasts. He tried to resolve the unpermissioned
usage informally over the years, but the client ignored him. It took
a lawsuit to finally bring the client to the table to settle the matter.
The client? It was Yahoo! The two-second vocalization is the famous
You just never know when that outtake will end up as the next Monica
Lewinsky. If you signed a WFH contract, you will be so mad you might
find yourself letting out an involuntary yodel.
© 2002 Mark
Mark Loundy is
a visual journalist, writer and media consultant based in San Jose,