Sun-Times Fires Entire Photography Staff – Reporters Required to Learn ‘iPhoneography’

Posted by at 8:02 pm on June 2, 2013

The Chicago Sun-Times fired its entire photography staff (28 full-time photographers), telling them that the paper would go with more “in the field” pictures and video from reporters and witnesses. In a memo brought to light by rival paper the Chicago Tribune, managing editor of the Sun-Times, Craig Newman, says that reporters will immediately begin “mandatory training” on “iPhone photography basics,” and that reporters will be responsible for capturing photos and video associated with stories.

While improvements in the iPhone and other mobile devices has proven to be a boon for capturing print-quality photos of breaking events, the idea that a reporter with no formal training or particular talent in photography could replace a professional photographer  and DSLR with a phone camera and a few pointers on composition has sparked angry backlash from photojournalists, other publications and pro photographers alike. Former Sun-Times photographer Alex Garcia called the idea “idiotic at worst, hopelessly uninformed at best,” but along with other laid-off photographers acknowledged that newspapers are facing shrinking budgets and lower ad revenues.

The iPhone — which is already the most popular camera of all models, according to Flickr — offers a better camera than most compact point-and-shoots, but is still well behind even higher-end consumer cameras such as four thirds camera models, to say nothing of high-end digital SLRs. But phone cameras have a serious advantage over most other forms of cameras in that they are with users at all times.

As newspapers and magazines increasingly move to the Internet — where the standard of resolution required is less than one-fourth that needed for even basic print — the high resolution of top-end cameras is increasingly thought to be unnecessary in a world where eyewitnesses often shoot video or photos of news events as they happen. Even amateur and poor quality images are now being increasingly used  to be first in the world breaking news and low ad rates. Plus readers are increasingly wanting video which could  signal that full-time reporters could be next to be axed.

The move was seen as particularly nefarious given that the paper was in the middle of negotiations with the photographers’ union, yet never mentioned the possibility of layoffs. The moved included the firing of a Pulitzer Prize-winning photographer .  Some this is is a union busting move to rehire some of the photogs as part-timers — losing the pay and healthcare benefits.




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