Chicago Sun-Times fires its entire photo staff; reporters to use iPhone cameras instead

“The decision by Sun-Times Newspaper Group to eliminate its entire photography staff, with its 500 or so collective years of professional experience, has everyone wondering what could possibly justify such a move,” Dan Mitchell writes for Fortune. “Is it union-busting? A way to squeeze profits out of a rapidly sinking business? A genuine, if seemingly clueless, attempt to shed a fusty ‘old media’ image and forge ahead into the glorious digital future? Sadism?”

Mitchell writes, “It could actually be a combination of any or all of those things. The newspaper’s executives have been mostly mum, but their public statement was all about ‘forging ahead.’ Here’s that statement in full: ‘The Sun-Times business is changing rapidly and our audiences are consistently seeking more video content with their news. We have made great progress in meeting this demand and are focused on bolstering our reporting capabilities with video and other multimedia elements. The Chicago Sun-Times continues to evolve with our digitally savvy customers, and as a result, we have had to restructure the way we manage multimedia, including photography, across the network.'”

Read more in the full article here.

MacDailyNews Take: Welcome to television, circa 1990, Chicago Sun-Times. Better late than never, we guess, but maybe 23 years is a bit too late?

Did you know that, even in local TV (UHF stations, even), until around the mid-90s there were local commercial “writer/producers” who did not shoot or edit video at all, but relied on staff photogs and editors to shoot and edit (analog A/B roll, no less) their spots? Same for local TV news reporters. The look on their faces when they were told to learn how to shoot and edit or find a new line of work was either priceless or painful, depending on your perspective. If you were already doing it all for half the pay, it was mostly the former, we can assure you. The next wave of producers and TV reporters knew how to, and did, it all. They still do. And the end product was better and faster because producers who know what can be done with the equipment doesn’t waste time on impossibilities and instead writes and produces with full knowledge of what needs to be done, how long it will take, and how to do it.

Yes, it’s too bad that the era of specialization is largely over, but, after a shakeout, we expect newspapers will find what TV discovered long ago: Yes, there are good “one-man bands,” but your old non-shooting reporters likely aren’t among them. The product will suck for awhile, but then new blood will arrive and the few quick learners with talent already on staff will bloom and together they’ll raise the quality to acceptable levels. In the meantime, get ready for some awful photography in the Chicago Sun-Times.

[Thanks to MacDailyNews Readers “Fred Mertz” and “Tayster” for the heads up.]

34 Comments

  1. Nobody reads the Sun-times anyway, the Tribune is the paper of note in Chicago.

    I disagree with MDN’s take, the news is not better today than it was twenty years ago, quite the opposite actually. Locally produced commercials still stink in most cases.

    1. No, you don’t disagree with MDN’s Take.

      MDN said “acceptable levels,” not “better today than it was twenty years ago.”

      And, if local commercials “still stink,” in your opinion, then there was no great loss when local TV producers were called upon to do it all.

  2. Wow! For simple stuff OK. Sports photography? Will they get some sort of telephoto lenses? I’m not saying it is a direct replacement but they need something more than just the naked iPhone. I like the iPhone camera but I also have a nice Canon DSLR with good lenses for times when I need quality pictures. Probably they will rely on independent photographers and buy their photos as needed like Peter Parker.

    1. The world is moving toward the contractoresque Peter Parker model which translates to: “We don’t want full time staff that we have to pay benefits to.” I’m sorry but not everyone is a born photographer nor will just anyone get those special shots for the ages. “Good enough” is our culture accepting mediocrity more and more as the norm.

  3. “Yes, it’s too bad that the era of specialization is largely over…”

    I don’t see how that can be true – unless you are satisfied with lowest-common-demominator drivel. Imagine if Ive had to also be program his interfaces, or design the chip in the computer. Or an excellent copywriter also has to know how to do four-color separation AND become a good designer AND implement the marketing campaign AND take sales calls.

  4. Buy your photos? You must be joking? Independent photographers are expected to provide photos free to the local rag in Norwich UK. They sacked their staff photogs last year or even the year before….. They say a picture speaks a thousand words, yet they keep the hacks and sack the toggies…..

  5. Yup. When “good enough” becomes the standard everyone suffers because the standards are lowered so much. In the beginning of my career I got more than a bit of my work from people and companies who thought they could do it well enough to pass for professional.

    It’s the same in most industries. Print design in the 90s was no different. And the eyesore crap that gets published now is far more plentiful than before pros the with design backgrounds were marginalized and priced out of the market because expectations had been lowered.

    Can you imagine what Apple’s products and marketing would look like if they let the secretary do the design work because the software was cheap and ubiquitous?

    1. What’s so 21st century about not having professional photographers? Oh, yeh, silly me… Twitter, Facebook, inane blogs by everyone and their dog… you’re right.

  6. So, the paper has decided to become a “throw-away” newspaper. Managers often forget that they need to convince their readers to pay for their paper on a daily bases.

    While I’m on the subject, Hey MDN editors, my daughter can do your job!

  7. The owners also suggested that DJs perform all songs live on the radio instead of using the real tracks because who needs Bob Dylan when you can have Cranston Snord’s rendition on his Wal-Mart guitar?

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