News agency blacklists The Times over late payments

By Dominic Ponsford

A news agency has stopped filing stories to The Times after alleging
that the paper pays late, pays poorly and sometimes does not pay at all.

Manchester-based Cavendish Press made the stand after editor Brian
Whittle, who has been an agency journalist for 25 years, said he became
exasperated by the actions of the paper.

A second agency, Kent-based Ferrari, has branded The Times “a waste of time and energy”.

According
to Whittle, he briefed a Times reporter on a story about a man
appearing at Manchester Crown Court charged with killing his father
whose defence was that he had been sleepwalking.

The Times
journalist allegedly said he was not interested in the story but then
went to Manchester Crown Court and covered it himself without paying
Cavendish a tip-off fee.

He said on another occasion the paper
paid £50 for a lengthy backgrounder about a court case involving a
14-year-old who arranged his own murder over the internet. He said
other papers had paid £250 for the piece.

Whittle said: “It gets
to the point where, in a shrinking market, you have to work that much
harder to get a smaller slice of a diminishing cake.

“We don’t
plead poverty; we are not bleating to anybody about poor payments
because we find even in difficult times the vast majority of national
newspapers and magazines behave honourably.

We have a good relationship with 95 per cent of them.” Cavendishwill continue to file pictures to The Times, he added.

Matthew
Bell, a director at Ferrari Press Agency, backed up Whittle’s claims.
He said: “Over the past year to two years, it’s become apparent that
when you file stories on spec to The Times and they use what we believe
is our copy, they don’t pay for it because they say it was their own
work, or it came to them from another agency.

“They also pay very
low in comparison with other newspapers. I don’t think we’ve ever been
paid more than £60 for a story from The Times, even if it’s been used
as a page lead.”

He added: “There have been cases when we have
let them know in the morning that we are going to cover a court case
and The Times would turn up and cover it themselves and make out they
already knew about it.

“The other thing is they take an incredibly long time to pay – it can take them five months to pay an invoice.

“I
haven’t stopped filing stories to The Times yet – but I don’t file
everything to them and I certainly don’t bust a gut for them. They are
a waste of time and energy. If I was at The Times I would think if this
goes on we are going to miss some good stories along the way.”

Bell said the going rate for a page lead in the nationals was £80 to £125, rising to £750 to £1,000 for an exclusive page lead.

Matt
Davis from Lewes-based agency Connors said: “I have to employ someone
to chase invoices from all the national papers. I wouldn’t say The
Times are any worse than anybody else.

That’s hardly a commendation – it just means they’re all as bad as each other.”

According
to The Times, it is working with Cavendish Press on the issue. A
spokesman said: “The Times has a good relationship with many regional
press agencies and we continue to work with Cavendish Press to take
copy whenever appropriate.”

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