by Dick Kraus
Newsday Staff Photographer (retired)

Dinosaurs are extinct. They are extinct because they foolishly ate all of the leaves off the tops of the trees and when their food source disappeared , so did they. Well, that's one theory. We've all heard the other theories. You know. The ones about comets hitting the Earth and the global twi-light and the ice age and all that. Personally, I like the leaf eating best. It really describes how I feel about dinosaurs.

You see, I am a dinosaur. I and a bunch of other fossils who once earned our daily bread (or should I say leaves) as news photographers in a by-gone era.

We were a different breed of animal and we have become extinct. The few of us who are still around are hanging on to our memories before we, too, die off.

We roamed the planet and did what newspuke dinosaurs used to do. There was no talk of "work for hire" or "transmission" charges. Jeez. There was nothing to transmit. You came back to the office and souped your film. Or, if you were out of town and couldn't return, you shipped your raw film back by air or whatever. Your creative work belonged to your employer and there was no question about ownership. You did the work on their time, with their film and most likely with their camera equipment. In return for which, you usually received a decent salary with health and retirement packages, vacations and days off with pay, sick days off, fairly regular raises and company picnics and holiday parties. It was a partnership. You supplied management with the best creative talent possible and they paid you and looked after you and it was like family. Oh, to be sure, there were abuses by both parties, from time to time. But, all in all, there was a goodly amount of loyalty involved. Loyalty to the paper or tv station by the employees. And loyalty to the employees by management.

All of that became extinct when the leaves were all gone. Somewhere along the line, journalism became big business. Management no longer came from the ranks of journalists with printer's ink for blood. No. They came from business schools and the only ink in their veins was red and black and their concern was not with putting out good journalism; rather their concern was with profit and loss. And staffs were cut, to pare costs. The vacuum was filled with freelancers. They were cheaper to utilize than staffers. They weren't salaried. You didn't have to supply them with cameras, film, digital cards or computers, cars, vacations, sick time, pensions or health plans. Sheeesh! Why not get rid of expensive staffers?

I'll tell you why not. Loyalty. I mentioned that two paragraphs back. The staffer works for the paper/tv station. The freelancer is a gun for hire. The staffer strives for quality and continuity. The freelancer has no concept of continuity because he/she works for a number of outlets, each with a different style.

Please don't interpret this journal as a criticism of freelancers. I know a fair number of them and am proud to consider many of them as friends. They are a hard working bunch of dedicated journalists who are being shamefully exploited by uncaring, bottom line driven management types. They are struggling to cope in a world which they seem helpless to change. I would say that they are struggling in a world not of their making. Unfortunately, most of them are making that world possible by signing horrible work for hire contracts. Oh, yes. I know that it is a struggle to put bread on the table and pay mortgages without work. But, by agreeing to such abominable working conditions, the situation will never improve and they will never really enjoy decent recompense for their talent and labor. It's not likely that things will turn around in my lifetime. So, I am glad to be out of it. Even though I was a staffer for my entire career, the changes in attitude impacted upon my working conditions and even though I had thought to stay in the business, when the opportunity arose, I retired and haven't regretted it for a moment. But, rarely a day goes by that I am not in contact with former associates, both staff and freelance, and I am sickened by the abuses that I see them suffering.

Thereby hangs the premise of this journal.

Click on the dinosaur to view our web site.

A bunch of dinosaurs who had spent their careers working as cameramen/women for newspapers and television have gotten together to form an unofficial society which we call "The Dinosaur Club."

We're all retirees or nearly retired from the Long Island (NY) area. We came from The NY Daily News, The NY Post, The NY Times, Newsday and NBC-TV. We meet once a month at a local diner for brunch where we discuss our grandkids and our latest colonoscopy. But, mostly we commiserate with one another about how good we had it when there were still leaves on the tops of the trees.

Dick Kraus





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