The Sun-Times goes down on staff photographers

Many colleagues working in regional papers will have felt a chill down their spine when they read David Montgomery’s recent remarks about how “much of our human interface”, ie. trained and professional journalists, “will have disappeared”.

sun-times-smallIf any are looking for a lead towards better quality journalism, then they had better not look to the United States, where last week the Chicago Sun-Times laid off its entire full-time photography staff, including a Pulitzer Prize-winner.

The lay-offs are a result of a need to shift towards more online video, according to the management, suggesting an ever-greater reliance on social media and reader-contributed content.

Around 28 employees are thought to be losing their jobs. Pulitzer Prize-winning photographer John H White is among those who were laid off. White took a well-known photo of now-imprisoned governor Rod Blagojevich leaving his home through a back alley one day after he was arrested on federal corruption charges. The photo caught Blagojevich as he passed a bright yellow sign warning about rats.

“It captured everything that Rod Blagojevich and the state of Illinois exudes. It’s a great photo because there’s such great humour in it,” said laid-off Sun-Times photo assignment editor Dom Najolia, who had worked at the paper for 33 years.

Chicago is one of few US cities still to have competing newspapers, where the Sun-Times, a tabloid, competes with the Chicago Tribune.

Sun-Times Media released a statement to the Associated Press confirming the redundancies: “Today, the Chicago Sun-Times has had to make the very difficult decision to eliminate the position of full-time photographer, as part of a multimedia staffing restructure.” The statement noted that the “business is changing rapidly” and audiences are “seeking more video content with their news”.


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