The national Sunday newspaper photographers’ pool for covering the impending war in Iraq has all but collapsed after eight of the nine papers allocated places withdrew, leaving only the News of the World.
NoW picture editor Clare Wood said her paper would review its position in the light of the fact it was the only paper in the pool.
Even on the day of the first Newspaper Publishers Association ballot in January, four of the nine papers – The Independent on Sunday, the Mail on Sunday, the Sunday Express and The People – withdrew on grounds of cost.
When those left asked whether they would still be required to supply everybody with pictures, the NPA said they would.
Later, The Observer, The Sunday Telegraph and the Sunday Mirror also pulled out, leaving just the Sunday Times and the NoW.
Sunday Times editor John Witherow decided the situation was getting crazy and pulled his paper. His picture editor, Ray Wells, told Press Gazette: “The whole thing just collapsed in on itself. The Sundays are now at the mercy of their daily sister titles.
“If you are not prepared to run the risk of being picked in the ballot, then I would have thought you invalidate any claim to pool material.
“If there was some way that costs could be shared equally between all nine titles, then I think everybody would be happy. The NPA has traditionally split costs on facilities, so why are they so intransigent on this?”
People deputy editor Mark Moylan pointed out that his paper had only one staff photographer – “a studio photographer who isn’t going to be any use to anyone going to war. I don’t think it’s fair for us to send a freelance into a war zone.”
Moylan added: “To be quite honest, it would be extremely expensive for us to go out for a one-day-a-week pool but as a group, MGN is fully represented. I think these days things should be looked at more on a group basis.”
NPA council member Andy Moger said he would not back down. “That’s the terms under which they entered into the pool arrangement. The process is detailed and elaborate and transparent and anyone applying for inclusion must have known the conditions under which the pooling arrangements would operate.”
By Jean Morgan