A national newspaper has reacted to claims by a former boss at Magnum Photos that the printed media no longer commissions photographers to shoot genuine photo-reportage.

Neil Burgess, the director of UK agency NB Pictures, claims that news organisations no longer support visual photojournalism.

Rather, he asserts, they assign photographers to provide ?illustration and decorative visual work?, while news wire services increasingly rely on ?citizen journalists? instead of professional photographers.

He claims that photographers cover events arranged by ?someone else?, citing ?spin-doctors, PR agents, press secretaries, advertising and marketing executives?.

In a letter to the lobbying group Editorial Photographers United Kingdom & Ireland, Burgess wrote: ?There are some things which look like photojournalism, but scratch the surface and you?ll find they were produced with the aid of a grant, were commissioned by an NGO [Non-Governmental Organisation], or that they were a self-financed project, a book extract or a preview of an exhibition.?

He added: ?We should stop talking about photojournalists altogether. Apart from a few old dinosaurs whose contracts are so long and retirement so close that it?s cheaper to keep them on, there is no journalism organisation funding photographers to act as reporters.

?A few are kept on to help provide ?illustration? and decorative visual work, but there is simply no visual journalism or reportage being supported by so-called news organisations.?

Burgess, a former head of Magnum Photos? offices in New York and London, continued: ?Magazines and newspapers are no longer putting any money into photojournalism. They will commission a portrait or two. They might send a photographer off with a writer to illustrate the writer?s story, but they no longer fund photojournalism.?

In a blog for the Guardian website, media commentator Roy Greenslade responded to Burgess?s claims.

Greenslade wrote: ?Though it doesn?t negate Burgess?s argument, I ought to mention one superb example of photojournalism featured on this site last week.

?It illustrated the activities of US troops in Afghanistan, and was the work of The Guardian?s inimitable Sean Smith??