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KGW videographers try to block payments to citizens for submitting news footage

KGW TV videographers and photographers are worried they're going to lose their jobs to a smartphone app.

A new app called Fresco was created to inform citizens of newsworthy events happening near their location, giving them an opportunity to take photos or videos of the event and sell them for $20-75 to broadcast news stations.

Paying a professional union employee a salary and benefits is more costly then giving an average Joe $50 for a video.

The union representing KGW crew members held a town hall meeting Wednesday night in Portland to inform the public about issues and dangers of encouraging what they call "amateur journalism."

Tegna Inc., which owns KGW, proposed a new union contract for members of Local 600 of the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees. The contract would allow payments to citizens for homemade videos and photos. Tegna was spun off from Gannett when that media giant split into two corporations.

In a mid-July vote, Local 600 members voted 26-0 to reject the proposed contract.

“We might as well not have a union contract if we’re going to have citizens do our jobs,” said IATSE business representative Dave Twedell, who had encouraged union workers to turn down Tegna’s contract offer.

David Olson, a Lewis & Clark College communications law professor who spoke at the meeting, agreed.

“It’s a crime to dumb down professional journalism so it can just serve as a profit,” Olson said.

The union will have another bargaining session with Tegna regarding the contract on Aug. 18, Twedell said.

Twedell said there are many issues that come with the idea of “amateur journalism.”

“Journalism can be dangerous work,” he said.

Twedell is concerned with the notion of asking people to put themselves in dangerous, life-threatening situations.

But Twedell and Olson’s main concern is about the credibility and content of the photos and videos.

Olson fears that people might start creating fake news scenarios in order to get their shot aired and get paid.

News stations have always accepted citizens' footage, but they have never offered to pay for it, nor have they solicited it, Twedell said.

“We have an obligation to our society and to the people who come behind us to not allow the idea of the free press to be destroyed,” Twedell says. “And that’s really what’s going on here.”