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The Chicago Sun-Times has laid off its entire photography staff.
May 30, 2013 1:23 PM   Subscribe

The Chicago Sun-Times has laid off its entire photography staff, reports the Chicago Tribune. The Sun-Times plans to use freelance photographers and reporters to shoot photos and video going forward. The Chicago Newspaper Guild, the union that represents the photographers, immediately said it would consider taking action against the company over the cuts.

Digital Photography Review spoke with Dean Rutz, a staff photographer for the Seattle Times and native Chicagoan, about the decision.
posted by The Girl Who Ate Boston (122 comments total) 14 users marked this as a favorite

 
Which instagram filter makes Rahm Emanuel look the most mayoral?
posted by Teakettle at 1:27 PM on May 30, 2013 [11 favorites]


To me, the only thing surprising about this is that the Chicago Sun-Times management did it all at once.
posted by 2bucksplus at 1:28 PM on May 30, 2013 [3 favorites]


""The Sun-Times business is changing rapidly and our audiences are consistently seeking more video content with their news."

Huh? Wasn't television, like, invented more than 50 years ago?
posted by Melismata at 1:28 PM on May 30, 2013 [2 favorites]


Huh? Wasn't television, like, invented more than 50 years ago?

Yeah but the Sun-Times just finally bought a license for JW Player last week.
posted by aught at 1:31 PM on May 30, 2013 [9 favorites]


Which instagram filter makes Rahm Emanuel look the most mayoral?

The finger adding one?
posted by Drinky Die at 1:33 PM on May 30, 2013 [4 favorites]


So many thoughts on this.

I wish Ebert was alive so I would know exactly what to think. (Not the first time I've thought this, but the first not immediately related to a movie.)

Check out the "chicagosuntimes" tag here at Metafilter. There are a bunch of really cool things from the paper's past. I'm more afraid than ever those days are numbered.

I wish no will ill to freelancers, but there seems to me a huge difference between 'taking a picture' and 'being a photojournalist.' But I'm not running the Sun-Times.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 1:33 PM on May 30, 2013 [14 favorites]


Melismata: ""The Sun-Times business is changing rapidly and our audiences are consistently seeking more video content with their news."

Huh? Wasn't television, like, invented more than 50 years ago?
Not for newspapers it wasn't. It was invented circa 200x, when online news sites began embedding video.

As for the story, I'm having a hard time figuring out how I feel, when I strongly believe the existing model for newspapers is dead-dead-dead, and everything points to declining revenue for them in upcoming years - until they turn their mode of operation around, and possibly do away with paper versions altogether.

So, on the one hand papers that continue to employ their former staffs at the same level of headcount and pay will go bankrupt soonest. And the ones that proactively fire most of their overhead will suffer all sorts of ill will, bad PR, and possibly make unwise, certainly untested early moves into this terrifying new news media world.

In the meantime, talented and trained photojournalists and staff photographers will suffer like buggy-whip-makers and cartwrights before them did. And then their general skills will once again be useful, but not for exactly the same product.
posted by IAmBroom at 1:34 PM on May 30, 2013 [1 favorite]


I'm glad that Chicago is a two paper town for the time being. I wish my city was as well. These days, being a one-paper town is an accomplishment.
posted by koavf at 1:35 PM on May 30, 2013 [2 favorites]


Has "Tomorrow's Sun-Times front page" image been linked to yet?
posted by infini at 1:37 PM on May 30, 2013 [30 favorites]


I wish no will ill to freelancers, but there seems to me a huge difference between 'taking a picture' and 'being a photojournalist.' But I'm not running the Sun-Times.

I don't think that has anything to do with it. The corporation saw an easy opportunity to unload responsibility for healthcare, FICA/disability/unemployment insurance, and retirement programs for a chunk of their staff and took it. That's the real sign of the times.
posted by aught at 1:37 PM on May 30, 2013 [47 favorites]


Photography has no place in this new online world! People hate looking at pictures on the internet.
posted by theodolite at 1:38 PM on May 30, 2013 [8 favorites]


And yet, no one ever thinks to outsource or freelance the executives. I mean, how much managerial talent does it take to keep pulling the Lay-Off lever?
posted by Thorzdad at 1:38 PM on May 30, 2013 [71 favorites]


The weirdest part is that I am told by friends and former colleagues still at newspapers that video gets dismal views. And it's much more time-consuming to produce. So this doesn't even make sense.
posted by purpleclover at 1:39 PM on May 30, 2013 [13 favorites]


The weirdest part is that I am told by friends and former colleagues still at newspapers that video gets dismal views.

Hmm, have they tried putting the videos at the top of vaguely related text articles and then having them autoplay at max volume? Because that has to be my #1 favorite thing websites do that gets me to repeatedly search out their articles to specifically click on.
posted by Drinky Die at 1:43 PM on May 30, 2013 [58 favorites]


I think this may be inevitable, no matter how we feel about it. Recently, in Washington State, we had a major bridge collapse. The local news stations covered it immediately, but the coverage for the first hour or so consisted of cellphone photos and HD video uploaded to Twitter by people on the scene. One reporter sent his sister to the scene (she was local). It was surreal, and I thought at the time that we are quickly approaching a tipping point.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 1:44 PM on May 30, 2013 [11 favorites]


Next year: Chicago Sun Times fires all reporters, replaces them with one intern scanning Twitter.
posted by COD at 1:46 PM on May 30, 2013 [34 favorites]


I mostly browse news sites at work during breaks or while waiting for code to build. For that reason I never watch any of the video content. Articles and pictures, that's it.
posted by freecellwizard at 1:47 PM on May 30, 2013 [1 favorite]


COD: "Next year: Chicago Sun Times fires all reporters, replaces them with one intern scanning Twitter."

The CNN model.
posted by brundlefly at 1:47 PM on May 30, 2013 [13 favorites]


Someone should make a Tumblr page that consists entirely of famous historical photographs that have been subjected to cheesy photo FX, tilt shifted and Instagram filtered all to hell. In fact, I'm almost positive such a page already exists.

Someone should post a link to that page.
posted by Atom Eyes at 1:47 PM on May 30, 2013 [3 favorites]


Given how many "news" websites simply copy images from other sources and include some loose attribution, I'm not too surprised that some paper is going this route.

And local news agencies have been asking people to submit images of the news, or just pretty weather photos, for a few years now. Part of an effort to get people more invested in their station/ paper, but also a great way to get free images and footage.
posted by filthy light thief at 1:48 PM on May 30, 2013


Someone should make a Tumblr page that consists entirely of famous historical photographs that have been subjected to cheesy photo FX, tilt shifted and Instagram filtered all to hell. In fact, I'm almost positive such a page already exists.

Someone should post a link to that page.

Ironically many of the most famous historical photographs were taken by amateurs who just happened to be there.
posted by 2bucksplus at 1:49 PM on May 30, 2013 [9 favorites]


Hmm, have they tried putting the videos at the top of vaguely related text articles and then having them autoplay?

Dude, save hot suggestions like that for your digital consulting gig! Do not give away your secrets here!

I say without exaggeration that you cannot imagine the asshattery that was going on about What To Do About the Internet when I was a reporter in the early '00s. I got kicked off the digital committee for suggesting that we use TheNameofOurNewspaper.com as our URL. Because they were sure that a portal, RandomWords.com, was the future. Which was fine with me, as I had better things to do than go to a weekly meeting of the worst ideas in the world from people who didn't use the internet.
posted by purpleclover at 1:49 PM on May 30, 2013 [38 favorites]


Please tell me you squatted the shit out of that domain and are now independently wealthy as a result of their stupidity.
posted by Atom Eyes at 1:53 PM on May 30, 2013 [15 favorites]


*bangs head off internet" :o(

Whatever the value and rapidity of the use of crowdsourced media, papers still know that they still have to employ people who are dedicated and highly trained and qualified to write news stories.

Since pictures are necessary to elucidate a story and give it immediacy, not to mention being extremely popular on the internet, it baffles me that the Sun-Times has forgotten that it's necessary to employ people with the dedication and training of a like kind in photography. You only need to take a look at the NYT and Guardian's photographers to know how a paper is enriched by directly employing excellent photographic staff and integrating the work in the right way.

Maybe the execs just hit their psychological blind spot here? Photos at the head of a news story - so ubiquitous that they're easy on a basic psychological level to forget, skim over, devalue? Seriously, I think that might've been what's happened here. And since it's something potentially so easily reversible if only someone had said one right thing at the right time... this is doubly infuriating.
posted by paperpete at 1:53 PM on May 30, 2013


In the meantime, talented and trained photojournalists and staff photographers will suffer like buggy-whip-makers and cartwrights before them did.

Because the internet apparently has made the public record obsolete.

Here's the deal, tho... if you can't make a living as a news photographer, you won't be investing in the skillset and equipment* required to be a photojournalist. Who are you gonna hire? An amateur with a cell phone? Because the ones with real cameras all have dayjob, and can't drop everything to rush downtown and get some pics of the Mayor doing the perpwalk.

The issue comes around again to Google and Craigslist. Craigslist especially has taken more than it's given by an order of magnitude, decimating small weeklies and huge regional papers alike. Those classified ads subsidized your right to know what's going on in your neighborhood, city, region and nation, and has taken away journalist as a career.

Buggywhips? What the hell is your Model T, then? The fucking Patch? No, there is no replacement, there is no advancement. Just something essential to our society that's been removed. It's like when GM bought the electric trolly lines to destroy them.

That's Google not being evil - cheapening advertisement and setting the expectation of free (as in beer) service to everyone on the internet, to where major publications and the reporters, photographers and graphic artists working for them are either gone or going.

(*And let's be frank - DSLRs and pro level optics are stupid expensive compared to what the camera makers used to charge film ones, and need to be replaced far more frequently as the technology matures. The only people who can afford it are pro journalists or hobbyists, and they all have dayjobs. If you can't make it as a pro anymore... why pay for pro equipment or care about pro results? If you think you can cover news conferences, sporting events or breaking news with an iPhone, you're delusional.)
posted by Slap*Happy at 1:53 PM on May 30, 2013 [17 favorites]


I don't understand this decision. Surely they're all using cameras that shoot amazing video with the best lenses. There's a little bit of a learning curve going to video from stills, but nothing that can't be easily accomplished.

Finally, I can't wait for the corporate wars when all these managers aren't actually managing anything anymore and they turn on each other. I'd watch THAT reality show.
posted by nevercalm at 1:54 PM on May 30, 2013 [2 favorites]


Hmm, have they tried putting the videos at the top of vaguely related text articles and then having them autoplay at max volume? Because that has to be my #1 favorite thing websites do that gets me to repeatedly search out their articles to specifically click on.

You're missing the strategy of hiding the video somewhere halfway down the sidebar and autoplaying at full volume so for the first forty seconds I can't even find the goddam thing.
posted by shakespeherian at 1:55 PM on May 30, 2013 [23 favorites]


Slap*Happy: In the meantime, talented and trained photojournalists and staff photographers will suffer like buggy-whip-makers and cartwrights before them did.

Because the internet apparently has made the public record obsolete.
Wow, forget RTFA; you didn't even read my comment.

The public record is not the issue. The paper medium by which is sometimes recorded is the issue. Until that sector of the media market resolves its path, no one's job in print media is safe. Period.
posted by IAmBroom at 2:01 PM on May 30, 2013 [1 favorite]


Why should I care? I mean newspapers haven't really been reporting real news for 20 years. Only whistleblowers and leakers have been doing any real journalism for a while now.

Pretty much anyone can take a high quality picture with little money and no traing these days too.

Shit I wish I could make a living selling oxygen or whistling while pissing but there ain't a whole lot of demand for what's already free.
posted by ishrinkmajeans at 2:01 PM on May 30, 2013


Pretty much anyone can take a high quality picture with little money and no traing these days too.

/me dies
posted by shakespeherian at 2:02 PM on May 30, 2013 [26 favorites]


ishrinkmajeans: "Pretty much anyone can take a high quality picture with little money and no traing these days too. "

Settle down, Marissa.
posted by boo_radley at 2:04 PM on May 30, 2013 [1 favorite]


Newspapers are dying because they killed themselves years ago by simply reprinting poorly-sourced press releases and puff pieces.

Yes, society needs quality reporting.

No, society will not get that, because it does not want to pay for it, and there are substantial power blocks that would like to see all reporting eliminated in favor of tightly-controlled press-release venues. The population at large, incidentally, is one of those power blocks -- a significant percentage of people are upset when stories they deem counter to their view of reality make headlines, and they'll be a lot happier when no countervailing viewpoint reaches their awareness.

Weep all you want, but the path is laid. It was laid a long time ago.
posted by aramaic at 2:06 PM on May 30, 2013 [10 favorites]


ishrinkmajeans just broke my sarcasm detector.
posted by brain_drain at 2:06 PM on May 30, 2013 [3 favorites]


nevercalm: "

Finally, I can't wait for the corporate wars when all these managers aren't actually managing anything anymore and they turn on each other. I'd watch THAT reality show.
"

Isn't that basically The Apprentice?
posted by pwnguin at 2:07 PM on May 30, 2013 [1 favorite]


There's always the possibility that magic is real and they're just transitioning into having Daily Prophet-style moving photos in the print edition.
posted by theodolite at 2:10 PM on May 30, 2013 [3 favorites]


I think one of the less-discussed aspects of this is that freelancers and wannabes have undercut staff photographers for a long time. Arguably because they can provide similar results at much less cost. This really is a case of photographers competing each other out of existence, or at least driving rates down to the point that a major paper can do this.

I guarantee there are dozens of Chicago photographers who will be happy to go shoot one-off gigs for a hundred bucks here and there. Will they make a full time living? Hell no. Will they be happy with their little stipends? Probably. Will readers notice a difference in quality? Not necessarily, especially for the daily news.

Where this really hurts is in the long-form documentary stuff, something that only full-time photojournalists can do, but that hasn't really been a major part of newspaper reporting for a long time.
posted by hamandcheese at 2:11 PM on May 30, 2013 [5 favorites]


Those people who think photography is some alchemical sacred art are laughable. We are to the point with light field cameras and high definition video that you can aim a camera at a scene for 3 seconds and get any number of focuses and lighting effects you want. Even if most people are not perfect photographers cameras are so ubiquitous that we are literally drowning in photographs. I saw a program out there that can reconstruct a 3 dimensional model of famous places by stitching all the tourists photographs together. Hell we have so many cameras these days we are literally begging people to put them away at conferences! We have so little demand for cameras these days we're almost at the point of paying people not to use them!

So yeah there is no reason these guys should be paid for doing what is already done so easily by so many.

I have the suspicion that many people are sticking their fingers in their ears and going "lalala" over this on this site because they're photographers themselves. I mean I can understand how you might not like what I have to say, but your profession isn't just dying, it's dead and rotting. Pretending the truth isn't true because it doesnt conform to your worldview is the definition of shortsighted.
posted by ishrinkmajeans at 2:11 PM on May 30, 2013 [1 favorite]


You're missing the strategy of hiding the video somewhere halfway down the sidebar and autoplaying at full volume so for the first forty seconds I can't even find the goddam thing.

That strategy works best if the videos are 38 seconds long, with the most obnoxious content possible, and put on endless repeat.
posted by FelliniBlank at 2:13 PM on May 30, 2013 [4 favorites]


Isn't that basically The Apprentice?

I don't know, for I hate Donald Trump with a hard, gemlike flame.

Also, it is not easy to take news photos. It takes time to learn where the story is. I have a friend who fancies himself a photographer. I asked him to photograph me doing some fun stuff at work with his nice SLR and good lens. The results were depressingly bad. One might think it's intuitive, but when shit's going down and things are stressful, it's really easy to miss the whole story. There's definitely a knack.
posted by nevercalm at 2:14 PM on May 30, 2013 [2 favorites]


Local news is what can keep a local paper alive. Or, that is the hope, anyway. Sure, you can get news of Benghazi and the Arab Spring on the interwebs, but how are you going to know about the recently elected mayor of the town across the river getting arrested for drunk driving but still showing up to drive the city bus the next day (this happened this winter)? Or about the construction zone on the local highway that includes a new diverging diamond intersection that is the first in the state? New ordinances from the local city council? The local man who is trying to gather a photograph of 500 MN Vietnam veterans who do not have an official photograph for the Vietnam memorial? Pictures of the new sculpture downtown? Schedules and coverage of the local summer festivals and concerts?

Local news coverage is necessary. And that really includes photographs.

It sure is a good thing that Chicago doesn't have nearly as much going on as my small town of 60k.
posted by jillithd at 2:16 PM on May 30, 2013 [7 favorites]


Those people who think photography is some alchemical sacred art are laughable.

I was going to take a picture of your straw man, but I can't seem to find it.
posted by Celsius1414 at 2:16 PM on May 30, 2013 [6 favorites]


So yeah there is no reason these guys should be paid for doing what is already done so easily by so many.

But see this is the same as 'we have no need of professional writers because everyone has a copy of Notepad.'
posted by shakespeherian at 2:16 PM on May 30, 2013 [23 favorites]


We have so little demand for cameras these days we're almost at the point of paying people not to use them!

I think I've just discovered my new business model.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 2:16 PM on May 30, 2013 [1 favorite]


Those people who think photography is some alchemical sacred art are laughable.

You aren't engaging with the thread. Nobody is saying that this sucks because photographers are like wizards and it will be sad to live in a world without magic anymore.

People are saying this sucks because it does not seem to them to be salutary to an important public institution and safeguard of democracy: the press. Whether that's true or not could be an interesting discussion, but you are not making points that are relevant to that discussion, and you might want to think about why that is.
posted by gauche at 2:17 PM on May 30, 2013 [9 favorites]


Those people who think photography is some alchemical sacred art are laughable.

You might not appreciate photography as an art form, but calling people who do "laughable" is a bit dismissive, arrogant, and frankly, ignorant to the aesthetics and storytelling power of good work.

So you don't care about that stuff... okay. But some people do, and there will always be people willing to pay for the real thing.
posted by hamandcheese at 2:17 PM on May 30, 2013 [8 favorites]


Which instagram filter makes Rahm Emanuel look the most mayoral?

Crop south and the west.
Zoom 1.3
posted by srboisvert at 2:20 PM on May 30, 2013 [1 favorite]


Dude, save hot suggestions like that for your digital consulting gig! Do not give away your secrets here!

I'm going to put just one word on this whiteboard. One word that will save your news organization. Are you paying attention?

*REALPLAYER*
---------------------
posted by benzenedream at 2:21 PM on May 30, 2013 [22 favorites]


Those people who think photography is some alchemical sacred art are laughable. We are to the point with light field cameras and high definition video that you can aim a camera at a scene for 3 seconds and get any number of focuses and lighting effects you want.

The value in newspaper photographers isn't so much their technical ability to take a photograph, but their ability to know what to photograph.
posted by hoyland at 2:22 PM on May 30, 2013 [23 favorites]


So yeah there is no reason these guys should be paid for doing what is already done so easily by so many.

But see this is the same as 'we have no need of professional writers because everyone has a copy of Notepad.'
posted by shakespeherian


Who needs design schools or portfolios or degrees now that DTP is here... every generation discovers sex.
posted by infini at 2:24 PM on May 30, 2013 [3 favorites]


*REALPLAYER*

I actually kind of love that the BBC has zombie RealPlayer materials hidden on old bits of the website and that, once you figure out what the hell plays RealPlayer, you can have radio from a decade ago.
posted by hoyland at 2:24 PM on May 30, 2013 [3 favorites]


Q: What is greatest in life?
A: To crush the unions, to drive them before us, and to hear the lamentations of their domestic partners.
posted by Bruce H. at 2:42 PM on May 30, 2013 [10 favorites]


Newspapers are dying because they killed themselves years ago by simply reprinting poorly-sourced press releases and puff pieces.
I run a small news blog for my local area (about 25,000 people). I receive exactly the same press releases from the local authority as the newspaper does. I will not publish press releases without rewriting them to fit the local context; I won't use press releases at all if I don't understand them myself; and I will even send them back if I find an error. Needless to say, the newspaper publishes every single thing they get from the local authority, often without changing one single letter. Even when they bother to write an original story I am constantly finding factual errors. I don't know how this happened, or whether the local newspapers were always so bad, but it's shocking. They have long ceased being of any great worth.

Oh, and as for photography, my local newspaper already often publishes the work of a local amateur without paying them a fee. He's a great guy though and will give me the same photos.
posted by Jehan at 2:44 PM on May 30, 2013 [4 favorites]


Where this really hurts is in the long-form documentary stuff, something that only full-time photojournalists can do

Yeah, the pain of a move like this has less to do with the daily quality of newspaper photos, although that will suffer somewhat, and more about putting skilled people out of work. Those people need to find jobs elsewhere, and those jobs won't develop the same skillset. I'm not sure where we're heading, but one possible outcome is that everybody's baseline competence with photography is much higher than twenty years ago because we're all carrying and using cameras 24/7, and on the other side of the seesaw, photojournalism expertise becomes much rarer.

The perceived backstop against the latter is the thriving of hobbyist photography. But I'm a serious hobbyist photographer and I'll tell you, my skillset will never rival somebody who does this as a profession. I'm not going to learn the lessons that come with doing photojournalism day in and day out. So maybe that becomes the new ceiling. Society loses a level of skill but gains breadth of content.

I wonder what photographs will be missed. What occasions will pass where somebody with a press badge could have said, "I'm with the Sun-Times," and gain access to a room or event that a freelancer can't, or won't think to.
posted by cribcage at 2:45 PM on May 30, 2013 [8 favorites]


The value in newspaper photographers isn't so much their technical ability to take a photograph, but their ability to know what to photograph.

I know two local news photographers, and they barely know how to use their (newspaper-owned) cameras. They shoot their DSLRs on full-auto mode.

The reason they take great pictures is: posted by Pruitt-Igoe at 2:47 PM on May 30, 2013 [8 favorites]


Needless to say, the newspaper publishes every single thing they get from the local authority, often without changing one single letter. Even when they bother to write an original story I am constantly finding factual errors. I don't know how this happened, or whether the local newspapers were always so bad, but it's shocking. They have long ceased being of any great worth.

That isn't "needless to say". Not every paper is your local paper. Not every paper has your local paper's low standards of journalism. Many of them take their jobs quite seriously.

The economics of this situation are tough, and there are no easy answers. That's the part that should be needless to say.
posted by middleclasstool at 2:50 PM on May 30, 2013 [8 favorites]


Pretty much everyone, everywhere is choosing good enough over seeking out that which is actually good. This is another example. As far as bog standard photojournalism goes, it has been demonstrated that we're willing to settle for good enough.

The problem of knowing what to shoot is solved by having multiple amateurs shooting the event from all angles and submitting them in hopes of a blurb of recognition. One of the submissions will be good enough to print, possibly with a little digital manipulation.

I have an acquaintance who is a middling photographer at best but is adept with Photoshop filters and social media. So much so, he has quit his day job to become a wedding photographer. I watched him shoot a mutual neighbor's wedding and his MO is basically take hundreds of throw away digital shots, keep the few that are accidentally decent, photoshop the bejesus out of them, mix in a few "signature" set shots, and sell the whole package for about $1.5-5K. Using social media primarily as SEO, he is does not want for people falling into his lap and averages one shoot per week.

He's not a good or particularly skilled photographer. He lacks any kind of training. He is, however, good enough. This is how the Chicago Sun Times can fire their entire photojournalism staff.
posted by Fezboy! at 2:57 PM on May 30, 2013 [1 favorite]


ishrinkmajeans.. do you really think all there is to photography is point-and-shoot + technology? Can you compose? Sure it's easy peasy to point and shoot, but if you have little/no concept of design, perspective, proper composure, and a myriad of other learned techniques you basically have the same crappy, but high-definition photos my 9 year old takes.
posted by HyperBlue at 3:05 PM on May 30, 2013 [1 favorite]


Not every paper is your local paper. Not every paper has your local paper's low standards of journalism. Many of them take their jobs quite seriously.

Some of this is the 24 hour news cycle problem and some of it is the "everyone's a photographer" problem. Our town paper runs in the black, publishes once a week, still has a few staff photographers (and a few stringers) takes pretty good photos and sometimes they even print photos you send them!
posted by jessamyn at 3:06 PM on May 30, 2013 [1 favorite]


MCMikeNamara: I'm more afraid than ever those days are numbered.

Those days have been numbered since Murdoch bought the paper… it just turns out that the number was rather higher than we originally thought.
posted by Quinbus Flestrin at 3:10 PM on May 30, 2013 [1 favorite]


Pretty much. Thousand monkeys at a thousand typewriters. Except we have several million monkeys, the typewriters are cameras with super computers behind them, and we have the Internet. We don't need any amount of skill because we have oodles of pictures and several ways to rate them in a parallel disaggregated way (up votes on reddit, tumblr blogs etc).

So you can frame the subject slightly better. Bully for you. I have 1000 pictures of the same thing for free and the Internet tells me 12 of them are better than your shot. Why should I pay you again?
posted by ishrinkmajeans at 3:13 PM on May 30, 2013 [1 favorite]


I'm assuming Sun-Times made this decision because whoever is in charge today decided they could and should get rid of staff to pay for all the shiny new TV equipment they want. It's bean counting.

It's not a rejection of photography as a whole, as an art form. It's a reminder that the current model is dying, but photography is not dying, nor is it dead. It's a reminder to all of us photographers that the days of retiring as a staff photographer from a newspaper are coming to a screeching halt. I knew I was an endangered species at 27.

By the way, it's insulting to be so flippant about middle-aged, nearly-retired people losing their jobs, that you think it must be some inevitable truth because a manager looked at a spreadsheet and declared photography is dead.
posted by girlmightlive at 3:14 PM on May 30, 2013 [1 favorite]


Drinky Die and shakespeherian, my local paper does both of the autoplay things you are each describing, and it's way beyond irritating. If I want to watch the video, I'll click on the link, dammit!

As for the Sun-Times layoffs, of course news photography is an actual skill, and of course the laid-off photographers, and ultimately the paper's readers, are getting screwed. Not sure what can be done about it, though, as long as newspapers are owned by for-profit corporations, who have proven over the last 10 or 15 years that they're more than willing to degrade the quality of a newspaper in the long term in favor of short-term profit.
posted by Nat "King" Cole Porter Wagoner at 3:18 PM on May 30, 2013


That isn't "needless to say". Not every paper is your local paper. Not every paper has your local paper's low standards of journalism. Many of them take their jobs quite seriously.
You're right, there are likely some good independent local newspapers out there. But my local newspaper is owned by a group which owns 100 local newspapers in England and Wales. If that group is happy with the standard of my local newspaper they must be happy for their other titles to be equally poor.

Some years ago they moved the actual editorial and publishing team 60 miles away from where the reporters of the newspaper are based. The newspaper is put together by folk who don't even know the local area at all. Indeed, this is a regional editing team putting together maybe a dozen or more papers at once, so the same must go for those papers too. It's a shocking disgrace, and it's happening all over the country.
posted by Jehan at 3:26 PM on May 30, 2013 [1 favorite]


Society loses a level of skill but gains breadth of content.

That's been happening for a while now, and, well, everything is terrible, but, hey, there's tons of it!
posted by junco at 3:26 PM on May 30, 2013 [6 favorites]


Photojournalism is a remarkably difficult job to do well and requires a very specific set of skills.
I think everyone can agree that A) news done well is valuable B) the revenue model is broken C) newspaper priorities have been messed up due to corporate convergence.
And for those saying newspapers are terrible nowadays!!11one, there has always been shoddy, biased journalism. But there is amazing stuff out there. No one is saying it can't be better.
posted by starman at 3:34 PM on May 30, 2013 [1 favorite]


The weirdest part is that I am told by friends and former colleagues still at newspapers that video gets dismal views. And it's much more time-consuming to produce. So this doesn't even make sense.
It's also more expensive to host. Remember, newspapers have to pay for bandwidth and servers to bring all this dynamic content to your screen, free of charge. Streaming video isn't cheap.
posted by deathpanels at 3:40 PM on May 30, 2013


To be fair there's not as much news to photograph as the old days.
posted by Smedleyman at 3:46 PM on May 30, 2013 [4 favorites]


Here's the deal, tho... if you can't make a living as a news photographer, you won't be investing in the skillset and equipment* required to be a photojournalist. Who are you gonna hire? An amateur with a cell phone? Because the ones with real cameras all have dayjob, and can't drop everything to rush downtown and get some pics of the Mayor doing the perpwalk.
I know a freelance photographer who makes a very decent living working for newspapers in Chicago. He's an art school graduate who owns his own professional equipment and works for Tribune company publications, mostly. He's good at what he does and so he gets a lot of work and earns a decent income, from what I hear. This is anecdotal, I realize, but my point is that your characterization of all freelancers as amateurs with crappy cameras and no education doing it as a side gig is demonstrably false.
posted by deathpanels at 3:48 PM on May 30, 2013 [2 favorites]


In the future, everything will be free but no-one will have any money.
posted by The Card Cheat at 3:48 PM on May 30, 2013 [7 favorites]




So yeah there is no reason these guys should be paid for doing what is already done so easily by so many.
But see this is the same as 'we have no need of professional writers because everyone has a copy of Notepad.'


I'm not sure that pointing out the enduring value of writers in the workplace is doing your argument a favor.
posted by deathpanels at 3:52 PM on May 30, 2013 [1 favorite]


The reason they take great pictures is: I have a cousin who's currently majoring in photography, and every time I see him he's constantly experimenting with light, focus, composition, and subject matter. He takes his DSLR everywhere, and is constantly practicing and refining his craft for those split seconds when he absolutely needs to capture just the right shot. He's done some pretty awesome stuff as a student, and given the sheer amount of time he's already invested in this pursuit, I really hope he gets the chance to make a career out of his art.
posted by RonButNotStupid at 3:57 PM on May 30, 2013 [3 favorites]


I've been doing photography for a long time and I've had some of my photos published in various mainstream print magazines like Time Out New York.

The fact is that it's pretty easy to learn to take a decent photograph - not a brilliant photograph but a decent photograph. There are mechanical rules you can follow to get framing and such right and you'll be able to take decent photographs pretty well every time with a bit of practice.

And modern equipment really takes a lot of the difficulty out of it. My semi-pro Casio (yes, Casio! - but it has features I couldn't get anywhere else...) isn't at all fancy compared to a nice Canon, but its multiple points exposure setting beats the heck out of anything I had access to even just a decade ago... and I can burst up to 60 still photos a second (I usually do 15 stills per second and 4 seconds), which (if you have enough light) is really excellent for moving things (like sports or birds on the wing).

Frankly, the people who are paying no longer care about the difference between decent photographs and brilliant ones. And they're out of money anyway.

I see most of the money in news photography just vanishing, and what's left being shared between a bunch of affluent hobbyists. As I keep pointing out here, nearly all the middle-class jobs are going away, and this is one of them.

Oh, and if it isn't clear, I hate it.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 4:00 PM on May 30, 2013 [10 favorites]


> As I keep pointing out here, nearly all the middle-class jobs are going away, and this is one of them.

Seriously. I'm glad I don't have kids, because that means I don't have to lie awake at night worrying about what the hell they're going to do to earn a middle-class living.
posted by The Card Cheat at 4:05 PM on May 30, 2013 [3 favorites]


"Why should I care? I mean newspapers haven't really been reporting real news for 20 years. Only whistleblowers and leakers have been doing any real journalism for a while now.

Pretty much anyone can take a high quality picture with little money and no traing these days too.

Shit I wish I could make a living selling oxygen or whistling while pissing but there ain't a whole lot of demand for what's already free.
"

Yes, you're right, the problem is that the audience is idiots.
posted by klangklangston at 4:06 PM on May 30, 2013 [2 favorites]


Finally, I can't wait for the corporate wars when all these managers aren't actually managing anything anymore and they turn on each other.

I feel like there's some sort of old African proverb about that. Something about elephants and grass.

And not the one about not standing next to an elephant that's smoked a lot of weed, although that's an important proverb too.
posted by Kadin2048 at 4:10 PM on May 30, 2013


Question for those commenting: where, mostly, do you get your news from? The newspapers, TV, or the Net?

If you had to give up two of those three, which would you keep?
posted by Postroad at 4:32 PM on May 30, 2013 [1 favorite]


Postroad: I'd take a culture that gave a shit about funding meaningful visual communication in other ways than walmart-styled technocorporatist backing.
posted by Annika Cicada at 4:34 PM on May 30, 2013


Postroad: I get most of my news from newspaper web sites. Which category would that put me in?
posted by Longtime Listener at 4:40 PM on May 30, 2013 [2 favorites]


I'm not sure where we're heading, but one possible outcome is that everybody's baseline competence with photography is much higher than twenty years ago

Of course, the other outcome is that, on average, everybody's baseline competence is much lower.
posted by octobersurprise at 4:43 PM on May 30, 2013


where, mostly, do you get your news from? The newspapers, TV, or the Net?

Overwhelmingly, the latter. But I'd note a couple things. First, you overlooked radio. I'm often listening to my local AM radio station. Second, as someone else pointed out, you're distinguishing between newspapers and the Internet as if they're different, which is okay if we were just talking about newsprint but we're talking about content.

Lastly and importantly, newspapers are the backbone. Sure, people do get news from their local television stations. (I think that's dying faster than newspapers, but that's another point.) But those news stations are often piggybacking on reporting done by newspapers. You may not learn the news from the newspaper, but frequently you wouldn't have learned it if not for the newspaper.

I don't mean to sound dire. The world changes. We'll adapt. But newspapers dialing back on producing original content is a major change and will require adapting.
posted by cribcage at 4:53 PM on May 30, 2013 [1 favorite]


Someone should make a Tumblr page that consists entirely of famous historical photographs that have been subjected to cheesy photo FX, tilt shifted and Instagram filtered all to hell. In fact, I'm almost positive such a page already exists.

Let me apply this faded-Polaroid filter to this faded Polaroid... Ah perfect.
posted by cosmic.osmo at 4:58 PM on May 30, 2013


Damn, if MetaFilter extra whiny today or what?

This is bad news for the photographers who've been let go. As an economic decision, I don't know how this will affect the quality of news.

But I find it a bit silly that MeFites are so focused on the presumed loss of art. Is there any reason to think that freelancers are so devoid of skill that we'll all suffer as a result? Is there a reason a freelancer cannot be professional? And this doesn't even take into account the leveling of the playing field that has occurred due to technological advances, or the simple proliferation of technology at all levels allowing amateurs to offer valuable material. It's entirely possible the Sun-Times will have the exact same talent, only employed under different terms.
posted by 2N2222 at 5:06 PM on May 30, 2013 [2 favorites]


That first link represents exactly why I still subscribe to the print addition of the Post-Dispatch. When I open up to 2A there is NO auto playing bullshit advertisement.
posted by stltony at 5:19 PM on May 30, 2013


"But I find it a bit silly that MeFites are so focused on the presumed loss of art. Is there any reason to think that freelancers are so devoid of skill that we'll all suffer as a result? Is there a reason a freelancer cannot be professional? And this doesn't even take into account the leveling of the playing field that has occurred due to technological advances, or the simple proliferation of technology at all levels allowing amateurs to offer valuable material. It's entirely possible the Sun-Times will have the exact same talent, only employed under different terms."

This is a fair comment, but there are a couple of things worth replying to:

1) It's possible that the Sun-Times will have the same talent, employed under different terms. Those terms are likely to be worse. If people respond to incentives, it's unlikely that they'll retain that talent, and — in any event — it's bad news for photojournalists in Chicago, whether or not they worked for the Sun-Times.

2) While amateurs can offer professional-level images, I think it's reasonable to hold that you're more likely to get professional-grade work more consistently from professionals. And most photojournalism can only be shot once — it's tough to convince bridges to collapse again if you missed it.

I think it's more likely that while the overall talent pool of photojournalists will decrease, there won't be a tremendously noticeable shift in quality to readers of the Sun-Times. This is especially true because the number of photos published is a tiny, tiny fraction of the number taken, even now, and so part of what photojournalists provide is a variety of framings, etc. so that copy editors can fit the page. Readers are unlikely to notice that.

Though I am hoping that this means the Trib is going to score some major photo scoops and make the Sun-Times look like assholes within the near future, it's not a tremendously likely occurrence.
posted by klangklangston at 5:27 PM on May 30, 2013 [2 favorites]


But those news stations are often piggybacking on reporting done by newspapers.

It's sadly common, but a lot of local news operations have been watching and taking notes while newspapers flailed and fought against the web. There's more quality and competence and smart, web-first writing out there in local TV newsrooms than you'd think if you're stuck in a market with generally terrible TV news, a lot of really nimble work done with very little staff. The trick's really making sure you don't put the TV cart before the news horse, and so, so many stations haven't learned this. Just disseminate accurate information to as many people as you can however you can, let your TV product take a backseat to the website and social media reporting, because you can build your show around the stuff you've already been writing all day for the web.

The real shark in the water with local TV is the parent networks and their awful handling of streaming solutions for network content.
posted by jason_steakums at 5:34 PM on May 30, 2013 [1 favorite]


A photo of three Chicago Sun-Times photojournalists reading their termination papers.

The guy in the middle is Pulitzer winner John H. White.

.
posted by jamaro at 6:48 PM on May 30, 2013 [7 favorites]


I'd bet less than half of those bemoaning this move have newspaper subscriptions.

Re: the story: no surprise. If anything I was a little surprised they had staff photographers to begin with.
posted by jpe at 7:24 PM on May 30, 2013 [2 favorites]


I see an upcoming Marvel/DC co-project that covers how the employment of Peter Parker and Jimmy Olson are affected by such decisions/trends.

But see this is the same as 'we have no need of professional writers because everyone has a copy of Notepad.'

Or, that guy has a Mac so his photographs will be superb.
posted by juiceCake at 8:32 PM on May 30, 2013


jpe: I would bet the number is far fewer than half.

Further, I would bet that one of the next steps is eliminating the entire production side and contracting out the actual printing.
posted by Ardiril at 9:02 PM on May 30, 2013 [1 favorite]


Dear Ex-Boss,
Thank you for laying me off in 2001 so I could find a new career outside of journalism that has yet to lay me off. Unlike the folks who lasted longer than me, I have had that opportunity, and thank you.

Now I'm worried about the photographers I used to work with. Sure, the writers I knew are all gone except for one, the editors I worked with are all gone but one, but the photographers at my tiny local 6-day afternoon paper so far have remained steadily employed (and one of them hopefully made bank on Pepper Spray Day). Oddly enough, that was a more stable profession here, I guess?
posted by jenfullmoon at 9:09 PM on May 30, 2013 [1 favorite]


Further, I would bet that one of the next steps is eliminating the entire production side and contracting out the actual printing.

They already have. The Sun Times is printed by the Tribune.

And yeah, I was going to make the same comment. Someone on Facebook I know is railing incessantly about this. To the best of my knowledge, they haven't bought a Sun Times this century.

I feel bad for the guys losing their jobs, but if their work has value, they will find other work.
posted by gjc at 1:03 AM on May 31, 2013


Figures. That was the direction the Atlanta Journal-Constitution was heading before they consolidated the printing at a site two counties away from Atlanta proper. Even that is old news, and by now they could have liquidated that facility also. I have been out of touch after going on long-term disability.
posted by Ardiril at 1:16 AM on May 31, 2013


> You're missing the strategy of hiding the video somewhere halfway down the sidebar and autoplaying at full volume so for the first forty seconds I can't even find the goddam thing.

A bit late, but for those who tire of auto-playing videos ruining newspaper website experiences (and denting mobile wi-fi data allotments), perhaps this will help:

The Chrome browser has a built-in "click to play" option that replaces all browser plug-in elements with a plug-in icon on a grey background, preserving the element's dimensions so it doesn't mess with the page's layout.

Given most videos are in Flash containers, this effectively prevents them from auto-playing. If you wish to view the video, just click on the plug-in icon and it'll load the content for that element only.

Go to Chrome settings → Show Advanced Settings... → Privacy → Content Settings (button) → scroll down to Plug-Ins → select Click to Play.

Reload the newspaper website...
posted by Jubal Kessler at 1:35 AM on May 31, 2013 [1 favorite]


Broadcast TV is the next to crumble
posted by Fupped Duck at 1:55 AM on May 31, 2013


It will work out in the end. After all, Metafilter does just fine without photos.
posted by Renoroc at 4:01 AM on May 31, 2013


Has anyone pointed out that it's a lot easier to get a large volume of photos from a single photographer these days?

In the '70s, it would have taken an army of photographers armed with ultra high quality equipment, each taking a maximum of N pictures at a given location, where N is the amount of film a single person can reasonably carry around. If a newspaper knows they want 500 photographs of the mayor's press conference to sift through and find the best five, then the number of people they need to send to this event is 500/N. Right now I can buy a gigabyte of memory for less than a dollar. Surely the amount of film a photographer today can carry (N), and therefore the number of photos they can take in a given time period, is orders of magnitude higher than their 1970's counterparts.

To a newspaper, photographers aren't artists, they're picture-takers. Automation and improved technology is now making this work more efficient, and the newspapers can afford to hire fewer of them. So as much as I want to fit this event into my lefty populism paradigm, I think the culprit here is Cannon, not the Sun Times.
posted by deathpanels at 4:38 AM on May 31, 2013


Deathpanels: What does it matter that you can take 500 shots on a day, when you can't be at several places at once? Canon hasn't invented a camera that clones people and their cameras yet, or whisks them to another spot, miles away, in seconds.
posted by raysmj at 5:31 AM on May 31, 2013


Mike Johnson in the Online Photographer makes the observation that Without the benefit of hindsight it's always difficult to tell what the landmarks of history are going to be, but this has the look of one.

The American staff photographer is now an explicitly endangered species.
posted by epo at 5:38 AM on May 31, 2013


//Further, I would bet that one of the next steps is eliminating the entire production side and contracting out the actual printing.//

I have it on good authority that our local paper makes more printing other newspapers than they do selling ads and subscriptions for their own paper.
posted by COD at 5:58 AM on May 31, 2013


I have a subscription to my local paper. I also follow 3 or 4 of the reporters on Twitter and I have no doubt I am lucky to have such a quality news team in my area. (They follow me, too, so they got the scoop on when my house got shot last fall, or which gas station had a line when our gas prices skyrocketed two weeks ago.) One is an editor and she is very upset by this news. Her comment to me: "The best way for a writer to get their story read? Make sure there's a photo with it. A good one. I think this is tragic."

She also is a knitter and likes all of my crochet projects. :)

Yes, they are owned by Gannett, who also owns the NBC affiliate news in Minneapolis and USA WEEKEND and other new sources, so they do consolidate work into a different offices. (Forgive me for not knowing the industry terms.) Like the page design, where they map out which articles go where on which page - that's done in Iowa now, I think. And printing is now done in Maple Grove instead of locally. They are looking to sell their current building (which used to house the printing equipment) and downsizing to a smaller office. But from everything I've heard and read, they seem pretty determined to keep their journalists local. Their editors strongly believe in the power of local news coverage, that people will read to the end of the story when it's about their town and people and places they know. This lead them to switching to a pay-for-content model, with only 5 free article a month if you don't pay, but for less than $30 a month I get web content and the paper delivered. Totally worth it to me. I hope it is keeping them in the black (although I am not sure).
posted by jillithd at 6:41 AM on May 31, 2013


Craigslist especially has taken more than it's given by an order of magnitude, decimating small weeklies and huge regional papers alike. Those classified ads subsidized your right to know what's going on in your neighborhood, city, region and nation, and has taken away journalist as a career.

Huh? Suddenly people can buy and sell goods and services on CL easily and free and you claim that it has taken more than it has given? I'm not seeing it. I realize they offer a disruptive service and there are winners and losers, but I can't see how anyone wouldn't see it as a net gain, especially when you consider how CL has been almost philanthropic in the delivery of their service.

I don't have the solution for how we sustain journalism careers (I do happen to think society benefits from good journalism), but I think it was always a bit precarious to hinge its financial success on the ad revenue of publishers.
posted by dgran at 7:02 AM on May 31, 2013


What does it matter that you can take 500 shots on a day, when you can't be at several places at once? Canon hasn't invented a camera that clones people and their cameras yet, or whisks them to another spot, miles away, in seconds.

That's exactly the issue. When people complain about a lack of news coverage, it's because there's less and less staff.
posted by girlmightlive at 7:13 AM on May 31, 2013 [1 favorite]


I realize they offer a disruptive service and there are winners and losers...

OK. Let's go back to buggy-whip manufacturers. There never were very many of them, and when they were obsoleted, it was by an industry. No-one wanted buggy whips, but there were tons of opportunities for automotive vendors manufacturing everything from transmissions to air fresheners... the advent of the car was a net gain. It increased prosperity for almost everyone, replacing and expanding the market from a few buggy owners to virtually the entire population.

So, the buggy-whip makers lose, and automotive accessory manufacturers win, and it improves society by creating immense wealth and distributing it widely.

Craigslist - what new industry did it launch to replace the local newspaper? None. It takes widely distributed money, and concentrates it into the hands of Craig Newmark, who does not provide the other services of a local newspaper, or even employ very many people.

There's your disruptive new service - it takes and destroys. But it's more convenient for you, so I guess it works out. You can scan the employment ads on your local Craiglist for the ever dwindling number of jobs offering a middle class income from its seductively simple interface. Hopefully you'll never need to compete for one.
posted by Slap*Happy at 7:23 AM on May 31, 2013


Around here too there was a lot of pushback against Craigslist (which still hasn't really caught on in rural areas but is big in Burlington and maybe Brattleboro, HUGE in places like Boston), people thinking that CL was "cheating" somehow in getting eyeballs for their advertisers (paying customers) without having to shell out for many real staff or for real paper, offices, etc. There was a lot of reluctance by more major media to take up any internet-based models of advertising or even engagement with readers and a lot more dug in complaining. This is just locally but I'm sure there have been ripples of this sort of thing everywhere. Trying to figure out how to make the business of newspapering stay profitable with all the attendant social value that places like CL do not have is challenging and a lot of people got into the newspaper business not really to "explore new paradigms" but more to report the news, run a local business, etc. And while people understand that some things may change (laying off the typesetters, for example) they're not sure how much and so some places go the slash-and-burn route thinking that maybe they're ahead of the curve. I seriously don't know, but being in a place where change, especially technological change, comes more slowly than some, it's like being able to watch the tsunami approach in slow motion.
posted by jessamyn at 7:37 AM on May 31, 2013 [1 favorite]


"I feel bad for the guys losing their jobs, but if their work has value, they will find other work."

Ah, the capitalist tautology.

"Around here too there was a lot of pushback against Craigslist (which still hasn't really caught on in rural areas but is big in Burlington and maybe Brattleboro, HUGE in places like Boston), people thinking that CL was "cheating" somehow in getting eyeballs for their advertisers (paying customers) without having to shell out for many real staff or for real paper, offices, etc. There was a lot of reluctance by more major media to take up any internet-based models of advertising or even engagement with readers and a lot more dug in complaining."

A couple days ago, I was just thinking how handy it would be if newspapers went through and vetted classifieds, how that would make me at least go to their site above Craigslist, because the Craigslist here — for nearly every category, relentless scammers and quasi-scammers have taken it over. Cutting down on that volume of, essentially, classified spam would be a pretty big boon, and something that papers could claim as value added.
posted by klangklangston at 8:20 AM on May 31, 2013


I feel the same way about Craigslist now.

Honestly, I think newspapers missed the boat by not realizing that classifieds are content and treating them as such. Ads aren't inherently a nuisance; in the best scenario, someone is trying to sell something and your reader wants to buy it. At the paper chain where I worked, the ads staff had no concept of that. Classifieds were tiny, gray, unusually expensive words that filled the back section. Display ads were too expensive for anyone but Macy's to buy. No one was served.
posted by purpleclover at 8:28 AM on May 31, 2013


If a newspaper knows they want 500 photographs of the mayor's press conference to sift through and find the best five

The fallacy is assuming the best five will be publishable. It's true that most professional photographers shoot a massive number of photos in order to get just one good one. (Cite: Joel Sartore.) But it doesn't necessarily follow that anybody can shoot a massive number of photos and get a good one. I'm a halfway decent photographer, and many times I've shot-shot-shot and ended up with nothing to publish or frame.

The Sun-Times can make do with freelancers, but those freelancers are still going to need a certain level of skill. Halfway decent plus a desire to make fifty bucks isn't going to suffice. It's not as easy as you'd think to shoot people who aren't posing for your camera and get something worth printing.
posted by cribcage at 8:42 AM on May 31, 2013


The Idiocy of Eliminating a Photo Staff
posted by girlmightlive at 9:02 AM on May 31, 2013 [1 favorite]


Speaking of Craigslist:
To submit your application please respond via email with the following:

1. Model of smart phone you currently use
2. Any other models of phones you own or have access to [Do not list rotary phones or other land line models. We tried taking pictures with those and it didn't work.]
3. A list of ten things more important to you than job security
4. A brief review of the new ‘Arrested Development’ episodes on Netflix
5. The names of three friends who may also be interested in iReporting
posted by rewil at 9:02 AM on May 31, 2013


If the entire reason for firing still photographers is because the future is video and they are ill-adapted then you have to also fire news writers because they are ill-adapted to write scripts or edit videos.

I have shifted over from paper to tablet but I still want to read and look at stills instead of watching a video.

Also the idea that pro photographers shoot a ton of photos only to pick the best one or five is misleading. That doesn't mean the rest are crap. The rest are light-years better than an amateur's best. The pro's best five are generally iconic.
posted by JJ86 at 10:35 AM on May 31, 2013 [1 favorite]


I'm always amazed that people can offer half-baked statements like "Why should anyone pay for professional photographers/writers/caterers/doctor/personal trainer? Everyone has a cellphone camera/copy of Notepad/a microwave/WebMD/exrx.com!!" and expect to be taken seriously.

This happens a lot regarding stories like this, and it truly baffles me: Do you really believe that life works like a junior high Civics class budget project? If so, do you ever wonder why you find yourself getting aggravated with the world around you despite being right all the time? How exactly do you get through the day?
posted by Uther Bentrazor at 11:35 AM on May 31, 2013 [2 favorites]


"Why should anyone pay for professional photographers/writers/caterers/doctor/personal trainer?"

You forgot toenail-clippers.
posted by Ardiril at 11:57 AM on May 31, 2013


The professional photographer who can shoot five iconic photos every time he removes his lens cap indeed deserves a full-time salary plus health benefits.
posted by cribcage at 12:16 PM on May 31, 2013 [1 favorite]


Two things just occurred to me that are relevant here.

I bounce around a few different network outlets, including in news. I remember seeing a job posting and feeling a chill when I saw that they were then hiring reporters who could also shoot and edit and light and mic up interviewees.

Then, two months back or so, I was sitting in the cafeteria when a large group of interns came in, along with a news producer. They had specifically given them all iPhones, and she was teaching them how to hold them to do man on the street type interviews. It's not just newspapers or small market tv. This was a big three news organization, and she was coaching them on how to produce segments for all their news shows, not just the "Nightly News" type thing, but the morning "newsertainment" show, the "investigative" stuff later in the evening, as well at the big 630pm major news show. Not only are we losing smart people with years of experience, these jobs are being given to unpaid, naive interns with no idea about what their doing. As someone in the business but who is also into news and info who thinks that independent journalism is absolutely vital to a healthy democracy, it's depressing and frightening.

I've always said that capitalism fails hard in some things, in that it runs directly counter to the core mission of the enterprise: health, education, and definitely journalism.
posted by nevercalm at 3:59 PM on May 31, 2013 [1 favorite]


"I feel bad for the guys losing their jobs, but if their work has value, they will find other work."

It's funny that two hundred years and more after Voltaire, "All's for the best in this the best of all possible worlds" is still a dictum to live by.
posted by octobersurprise at 4:38 PM on May 31, 2013 [1 favorite]


They should have blank rectangles next to each news story and invite the reader to draw whatever they think goes along best with the article. It would make the reader more involved with the news.
posted by Renoroc at 7:07 PM on May 31, 2013


After layoffs, Sun-Times expects reporters to become mobile photographers:
Today remaining Sun-Times staff are beginning mandatory training on "iPhone photography basics," as shared via Facebook by media writer Robert Feder and reported by Poynter.org. Feder quoted a memo from managing editor Craig Newman: "In the coming days and weeks, we'll be working with all editorial employees to train and outfit you as much as possible to produce the content we need."
I don't know much about labor law, but boy, if I were asked about this at a weekend cookout by a relative who'd gotten laid off this week by the Sun-Times, I'd have some questions I'd want to look into.
posted by cribcage at 11:02 PM on May 31, 2013 [2 favorites]


Then, two months back or so, I was sitting in the cafeteria when a large group of interns came in, along with a news producer. They had specifically given them all iPhones, and she was teaching them how to hold them to do man on the street type interviews. It's not just newspapers or small market tv. This was a big three news organization, and she was coaching them on how to produce segments for all their news shows, not just the "Nightly News" type thing, but the morning "newsertainment" show, the "investigative" stuff later in the evening, as well at the big 630pm major news show. Not only are we losing smart people with years of experience, these jobs are being given to unpaid, naive interns with no idea about what their doing. As someone in the business but who is also into news and info who thinks that independent journalism is absolutely vital to a healthy democracy, it's depressing and frightening.

At the same time, there are now 200 million people in the US with the same tools to do reporting, and the same potential to reach mass audiences as the big three news networks.
posted by empath at 4:03 AM on June 1, 2013


The painful realities behind the demise of the Chicago Sun-Times photo desk.
posted by Horace Rumpole at 8:52 AM on June 3, 2013


Rob Hart was replaced with a reporter with an iPhone, so he is documenting his new life with an iPhone, but with the eye of a photojournalist trained in storytelling.

Laid off from the Sun-Times
posted by Horace Rumpole at 12:18 PM on June 3, 2013


Chicago Tribune and Sun-Times Covers After the Stanley Cup Finals:
We may be starting to see the negative effects of having an army of staff iPhoneographers rather than photojournalists. The side-by-side comparison above shows what the Chicago Tribune and Chicago Sun-Times newspaper covers looked like on June 26th, 2013, two days after the Stanley Cup finals.
To be fair, PetaPixel appended a correction to the article after publishing it: apparently the Sun-Times "actually had a special wrap-around for that day’s paper," which included another, more professional photo. But still, the point holds. There's also a comparison of the papers' respective day-before covers.
posted by cribcage at 12:02 PM on June 27, 2013 [2 favorites]


Now the Sun-Times has ended its books coverage.
posted by aught at 11:14 AM on June 28, 2013


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