Chicago Sun-Times Lays Off Entire Photo-Staff, Effective Immediately


Among those laid off is John H. White (see photo above), a 68-year-old Pulitzer Prize winner. Meanwhile, the Poynter Institute reports that the Sun-Times will start giving their reporters mandatory training in iPhone photography. Because that’s the same thing, right?

We know print journalism is under siege – it has been for years. And, contrary to popular opinion, this is not so much because of “the internet” as the fact that there’s a smaller number of companies that own more and more news outlets. And the practice of these companies is to prioritize their bottom line over – oh, I don’t know – being a watchdog for democracy. But still, every time you hear about another paper laying off staff, or shutting down altogether, it hurts. News today that the Chicago Sun-Times has laid off its entire photo-staff feels like a sucker punch. This is terrible news, not just for journalism, but because it debases the craft of photography itself. Is it just me, or does it seem like we’re getting to a point where no one knows anything about anything. Maybe that’s the idea.

Author: Wanda Schmöckel

Wanda Schmockel is just trying to get by without shoving. You may follow her on twitter @vschmo

12 thoughts on “Chicago Sun-Times Lays Off Entire Photo-Staff, Effective Immediately”

  1. Cost-benefit. They decided it wasn’t worth the $ to have excellent photography produced in-house, so instead will run sketchy Iphone pics and available AP pics. Crappy, but most people are likely more interested in the written content, not the photography.

  2. Bronymous, I’m not convinced. I’d argue (and this has been corroborated by several news outlets) that visual aids in journalism – be it broadcast or print – are being pushed hard by owners, managers, and publishers. You need only visit your favourite news site to see how reporters are being asked to tweet photo-documentation of their reporting on the ground. And print outlets are increasingly using video to augment stories. Apparently, people are very interested in pictures. I think we’re collectively losing our visual literacy, though, and moves such as this don’t make things any better.

  3. This must be a joke. I often don’t read a story unless it features an interesting photo to pull me in. They’re part in parcel; you can’t separate the two when it comes to newspaper writing. Could be why I, personally, have such little interest in online news, except this one.

  4. That said, I just read 6 stories from the front section of this past Sunday’s NYTs.

    One, of Afghan soldiers in Afghanistan, had a great pic, but I didn’t read the story cuz I’m not that interested but I did read the cut line (and got the gist) and wouldn’t have if the picture had been taken with an iPhone.

    The story of Jersey Shorers invading the Hamptons was a no-brainer, pictures or not (it could have actually used better pictures).

    Partially read the front page feature about the guys who dress military dead; the picture made me care.

    California community gardens for the mentally ill: Pics helped, may have read anyway.

    I rejected a story about a Newarkian pedophile priest cuz the priest (i mean pic) was rubbish.

    I read two of three obits based on the pics (one about a photographer) as well the story about the Coney Island carousel restoration.

    Good pics always help. My hunch is that over time the Chicago paper will lose readers, tho possibly the recent populist embrace of professionals having nothing on the common riff raff will boost its popularity. I guess writing quality is next to go.

  5. Well technically, this is only a “news site” part of time. And, much of that news is aggregated (with the exception of Paul Dechene’s very impressive and diligent coverage of City Hall). Aggregators are another challenge to journalism (says the person who gleefully posts a Six In The Morning every second Monday). So much of this transition to digital feels like a bad and prolonged phase of growing pains, but it’s clear that whatever comes out on the other end won’t resemble what news coverage used to look like. In some ways that might be good, but in other ways (like attention to craft – be it photography or writing), it’s a disaster.

    And, frankly, “quality writing” (for the most part, in most mainstream, regional markets) left the journalism building a long time ago.

  6. Vanda- I am old enough to remember reading five newspapers cover to cover on the weekend in the 1980s. I likened it to eating a balanced meal. Since the advent of the internet journalism has gone fast food.

  7. Five newspapers over a weekend? Yowza.
    Are we talking local papers, or did you throw in some international ones too?

  8. Calgary Herald,Leader-Post, Edmonton Journal,Toronto Star before it was a rag,Hamilton Spectator and the New York Times

  9. Vanda, in re: the quality of writing having long since departed, mega-amen to that.

  10. Brian, was that before Canwest (and later, Post Media) took those western papers over? And, hey! The Toronto Star may have slipped, but it’s far from a rag. It still regularly produces good journalism – and it’s one of the few papers left in the country with a full-time investigative unit.

  11. Pics are a vital piece of the story, and it is a shame they went that way. But with the issues this industry faces, it was either this or some other drastic measures, high quality self-produced pics lost out.

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