One of the biggest news outlets in the country, The Chicago Sun-Times made a bold move yesterday, firing all of its 28 photographers in favor of freelance photographers and reporters using iPhones to capture photos for news stories. The move is reportedly being made to improve the company’s standing with its “digitally savvy” readers.
Here is an official statement from the Chicago Sun-Times:
“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.”
According to a tweet from Robert Feder, a former media reporter for the Sun-Times of 28 years, Sun-Times reporters “begin mandatory training today on ‘iPhone photography basics’ following elimination of the paper’s entire photo staff.”
This move highlights a huge shift in the way traditional media is being replaced by so-called new media, which focuses on shorter news stories and more multimedia elements. Not only is it difficult to snap quality photographs while reporting on a story, many photographers who were laid off had long-standing relationships in the community, which allowed them to gain access to areas and situations in which they could capture interesting photographs and intimate information.
“The photographers they fired were not button-pushers, they were journalists and trusted members of their communities. Some of them were deeply connected to areas of Chicago in ways that a freshly minted multimedia journalism graduate from New York will never be. Everyone in the city, it seemed to me, knew John White and Brian Jackson. I couldn’t walk up to a crime scene or a neighborhood center without them receiving slaps on the back and having doors thrown open. Scott Stewart had deep access to firefighters and fire officials in the city, on a first name basis…” – Chicago Tribune Photographer, Alex Garcia
Time will tell how this move works out for the Chicago Sun-Tribune, and if and when other news media outlets follow suit.