First there were two full-time photographers at the Stevens Point Journal (circ. 11,000). Then there was one. Now there are none.
Doug Wojcik, 59, was one of more than 600 Gannett employees offered buyouts this past spring after 40 years at the Journal (36 of those years as a full-time staff photographer). Between thousands of assignments, Wojcik found time to be a loving husband and father, an NPPA board member, a WNPA president, as well as a member of the Wisconsin Freedom of Information Council for more than 15 years.
Tom Kujawski, Wojcik’s colleague on the photography staff for several decades, was laid off in 2009. The Journal currently has a photography intern.
“The photo department died with me,” Wojcik said. “I accepted the buyout because they were putting my position on the line. [The reduction] is going counterproductive with what they wanted to do,” he added, referring to the Journal‘s penchant for “hyperlocal” news coverage.
The Journal, owned by the McLean, Va.-based corporation, lost more than a seasoned photojournalist when they lost Wojcik. They lost an important tie to their community. Wojcik is a “Point” native. He grew up there, went to high school there, got his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in Communication at the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point, and raised his two children there.
“The editors said my connections to the area have always helped them. I was a little taken aback by it,” he said.
A 2010 customer service page on the stevenspointjournal.com website, “Whom to Call”, still lists Wojcik as the only person below the General Manager and the Executive Editor.
After Kujawski’s position at the paper was eliminated in 2009, Wojcik managed to cover his central-Wisconsin community with help from out-of-town Gannett newspapers in Marshfield (about 30 miles away) and Wisconsin Rapids (about 20 miles away). It wasn’t easy. It’s indicative of Wojcik’s character that while things became demanding, he got the job done.
“For a while we shuttled between the three sites. I could put 300 miles on [my vehicle] in a weekend, skirting all over the place. It was a little more hectic, but we did it.”
“There were times when it got really tight,” he said, thinking about the hustle from one place to the next, the demand for photo galleries, and the company’s aversion to overtime. “Sometimes they didn’t get [all they wanted, and] sometimes it got posted days later because you had to watch your hours.”
There was a personal toll of last minute assignments and split shifts, too. If his wife inquired during the week about dinner out on Friday evening, Wojcik answered that he would let her know Friday morning once he knew the schedule.
“That part was starting to get old. You couldn’t really plan anything, because you never really knew.”
Wojcik plans to freelance now.
“You miss some of the action,” he said. “But the way things were playing it, I’m not missing that part at all.”
Wojcik served as WNPA’s membership chair, convention chair, newsletter editor, POY chair, vice president, and president.
In serving NPPA, he was a co-chair Flying Short Course, a Region 5 publication editor, regional associate director, regional director, and national secretary.
Here is a toast to Doug Wojcik, one of countless dedicated photojournalists at small newspapers who gave their all to their community, their newspaper, and their profession, and now find themselves out of work. And here is a lament to readers who will see and read a greatly diminished newspaper.