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Business / Philosophy of Photography Taking pics is one thing, but understanding why we take them, what they mean, what they are best used for, how they effect our reality -- all of these and more are important issues of the Philosophy of Photography. One of the best authors on the subject is Susan Sontag in her book "On Photography."

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chicago sun times lays off entire photo staff
Old 05-30-2013   #1
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chicago sun times lays off entire photo staff

By Robert Channick
Tribune staff reporter
10:30 a.m. CDT, May 30, 2013

The Chicago Sun-Times has laid off its entire photography staff, and plans to use freelance photographers going forward, the newspaper said.
About 20 full-times staffers received the news Thursday morning, according to sources familiar with the situation.

The newspaper released a statement suggesting the move reflected the increasing importance of video in news reporting:

"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."

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Old 05-30-2013   #2
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tough times, how many people ? and by freelance do they mean user submitted or professional photographers ?
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Old 05-30-2013   #3
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The world no longer cares about photography it seems. It's worth has diminished in the mainstream.
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Old 05-30-2013   #4
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Quote:
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tough times, how many people ?
20 full-time

Quote:
Originally Posted by Lauffray View Post
and by freelance do they mean user submitted or professional photographers ?
I think they are putting more emphasis on 'free' as opposed to 'freelance' - i see a lot more iphone vids coming to the newspaper landscape. And crappy frame grabs for 'photos'. Ouch.
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Old 05-30-2013   #5
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tough times, how many people ? and by freelance do they mean user submitted or professional photographers ?
The original post, also cited by the Chicago Tribune, reported "about 20 full-time staffers" were laid-off/released/downsized/euphamism/fired. There is no indication if this includes only photojournalists, or also photo editors.
(edit: looks like segedi beat me by a minute)

Re: "freelance," my guess is that they'll hire photographers/journalists for one-off assignments. I don't know though...perhaps it will devolve into a racket like CNN's iReport.

This tweet says that reporters will photograph assignments with their iPhones. The original report also says "to evolve with our digitally savvy customers...we have had to restructure the way we manage multimedia, including photography" and I take that to mean they're going to emphasize video over still images.
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Old 05-30-2013   #6
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I am truly sorry for those laid off and for what it means to photojournalism as a mainstream profession.
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Old 05-30-2013   #7
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Not too surprising. Think about it - everybody runs around with a smart phone these days and takes pictures - those by-standers will be happy to give away their photos just to see their name credited in the paper. It seems nobody cares about quality anymore.

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Old 05-30-2013   #8
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tough times, how many people ? and by freelance do they mean user submitted or professional photographers ?
I wouldn't be surprised if someone on staff combs social media for real-time photos and videos they can license from "freelancers".
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Old 05-30-2013   #9
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That's surprising, considering that sports photography isn't something that can be handled from the bleachers.

Maybe they'll just rely on AP or other services.

Getting a freelancer into a pro event (sports, concerts, events) is going to take more time, because you need to get credentials for that person.

My guess is that they will rehire the photographers as freelancers. That way, they don't have to pay benefits or wages. The news industry sucks right now.

Amateurs can't handle the volume of work that a newspaper expects.

They will also need some photo techs to handle prepress work. There's a certain skill involved in prepping a photo for newspaper reproduction. It's not the same as Web display.
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Old 05-30-2013   #10
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This is the cost of our collective purchasing habits.
I buy a newspaper now once or twice a week as what time I do have to catch up on the news I can do online, it's not as in-depth, but for the time I have it's enough.
Newspapers are dying because people like me are not supporting them.
I was actually discussing this with my wife this morning and we've decided to take on an online newspaper subscription. As they say, use it or lose it.
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Old 05-30-2013   #11
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In the 70s I was hired as the photographer on a small town newspaper that was the laughing stock of the business--several journalism schools even had subscriptions to show the students how really bad things could be.

The editor had died several years before, and been "replaced" by his secretary. All of the (bad) photography was done by the writers, and the guys in the printing department did the layout, using small ads to fill empty spaces on the front page--a concept that was so outrageous that the newly hired editor who hired me didn't know where to start to make things right.

Now the Sun-Times has adopted my old paper's photography habit, and I notice that for some time the Trib has been running ads on their front page. I guess awful is the new norm in journalism.

Bobbyrab, I can proudly say that I don't subscribe to a paper now. I used to--sometimes three at a time--but since they have become right-wing trumpets rather than bringers of truth (I can't believe that Judith Miller still has a job in journalism, for instance), I can't in good conscience spend my money helping them exist. Perhaps if they're in trouble, they should look at what they've been doing to themselves.
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Old 05-30-2013   #12
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I work at Boston University, and last week they just laid off their photo department and abolished the department altogether. Not the academic photography department, but the one in charge of all official university photography. I realize that BU is not the Chicago Sun Times, but it more evidence of a growing trend. From what I understand, the thinking is that they can get students with high-end DSLRs to do the same thing at little to no cost. The head of the department is 65 and had been here 44 years.
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Old 05-30-2013   #13
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What the F***.
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Old 05-30-2013   #14
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Newspapers have always been mouthpieces for right or left wing groups or individuals. As far as I know there have never been newspapers who were "bringers of the truth." I don't know everything so I could certainly be mistaken, but I kind of doubt it in this case.

As for amateurs trying to do what once took a pro, that is going on everywhere, not just news publishing. A lot of businesses are struggling and doing anything they can to stay afloat. That does not make it any easier for those who are let go, nor does it improve quality in the resulting product.
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Old 05-30-2013   #15
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wow that sucks. feel bad for those laid off.

ah well, have to thank the prosumer camera market for this. with the advent of amateur photographers pouring in, this kind of thing was bound to happen.
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Old 05-30-2013   #16
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Quote:
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I work at Boston University, and last week they just laid off their photo department and abolished the department altogether. Not the academic photography department, but the one in charge of all official university photography. I realize that BU is not the Chicago Sun Times, but it more evidence of a growing trend. From what I understand, the thinking is that they can get students with high-end DSLRs to do the same thing at little to no cost. The head of the department is 65 and had been here 44 years.
man, what a joke.

I met Kal as a student there about 2 years ago. Interesting guy, very different interests as a photographer than me but nice, helpful, and with good skill.

it's a hard life for photographers right now. I think the middle group of decently talented people who made up a lot of photography staffs are simply not going to have a job. we'll have a bunch of free **** and then the super good people will probably continue to be able to convince people of their value.

1 photo just doesnt have as much value these days unless it somehow manages to really stand out. there is no more good enough, now its either spectacular or lost in the sea.
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Old 05-30-2013   #17
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Newspapers have always been mouthpieces for right or left wing groups or individuals. As far as I know there have never been newspapers who were "bringers of the truth." I don't know everything so I could certainly be mistaken, but I kind of doubt it in this case.
My knee-jerk reaction is to say that you're wrong. But the reality is more complicated.
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Old 05-30-2013   #18
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Adapt or die.

Photography used to require specialized knowledge/skill. It doesn't anymore, if your aim is simply to "faithfully record what happened." This leaves aesthetics as the sole remaining reason for photographer/journalists. The idea that the news needs to be reported photographically by someone with an aesthetic sense flies in the face of the news' claim to objectivity."Professional" photographer journalists have always put the lie to the claimed 'objectivity' of the news.
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Old 05-30-2013   #19
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Photography used to require specialized knowledge/skill. It doesn't anymore, if your aim is simply to "faithfully record what happened." This leaves aesthetics as the sole remaining reason for photographer/journalists.
And newpapers use to be more profitable - or at least in the black. I'm not sure how many have found sustainable business models at all now.
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Old 05-30-2013   #20
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I suppose they are looking at replacements such as prolific freelancer Arielle Stevens of Facebook renown:

http://www.theonion.com/articles/are...ictures,30443/
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Old 05-30-2013   #21
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I suppose they are looking at replacements such as prolific freelancer Arielle Stevens of Facebook renown:

http://www.theonion.com/articles/are...ictures,30443/
I refuse to believe that is true. Say it isn’t.
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Old 05-30-2013   #22
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I refuse to believe that is true. Say it isn’t.
I was joking. It is probably not too far off the mark, though.
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Old 05-30-2013   #23
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Adapt or die.

Photography used to require specialized knowledge/skill. It doesn't anymore, if your aim is simply to "faithfully record what happened." This leaves aesthetics as the sole remaining reason for photographer/journalists. The idea that the news needs to be reported photographically by someone with an aesthetic sense flies in the face of the news' claim to objectivity."Professional" photographer journalists have always put the lie to the claimed 'objectivity' of the news.
Easy to say when it's not your job.
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Old 05-30-2013   #24
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My guess is that they will rehire the photographers as freelancers. That way, they don't have to pay benefits or wages.
Not sure about IL, but I know CA and probably WA have laws that prevent contract work within a year of being laid off. I think Microsoft would do just that, lay people off and then immediately contract their services sans benefits. Now you can't do that. I'm sure it will happen in some instances though.
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Old 05-30-2013   #25
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No, I think Mike (ZeissFan) is probably close to the mark. Someone mentioned sports photography; I can't believe they'd stop using experienced staffers. More likely they just hire these guys as independent contractors.
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Old 05-30-2013   #26
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I work at Boston University, and last week they just laid off their photo department and abolished the department altogether. Not the academic photography department, but the one in charge of all official university photography. I realize that BU is not the Chicago Sun Times, but it more evidence of a growing trend. From what I understand, the thinking is that they can get students with high-end DSLRs to do the same thing at little to no cost. The head of the department is 65 and had been here 44 years.
You gotta do something to keep up with administrative bloat.
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Old 05-30-2013   #27
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On the brighter side, the Seattle Times added a new photographer to its staff last week.

So no, photojournalism isn't dead, but in some markets it's a challenge getting those who write checks to see the value. And most staff photographer jobs at magazines are being listed under the guise of "photo editor" where they are basically photographing everything themselves.
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Old 05-30-2013   #28
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Guys, print journalism is really struggling. A sign of the times, and a real shame. I'm sure these papers have eviscerated their reporting and editorial staffs also.
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Old 05-30-2013   #29
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unfortunately I am not surprised. I believe CNN did this years ago. This trend seems to irreversible. How will this play out?
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Old 05-30-2013   #30
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My guess is that this is basically a disguised way to eliminate many high paid employees (who are probably pretty senior) and replace them with lower paid entry level freelancers. Lots of businesses (and local governments) do this and try to mask it under various guises.

I suspect a secondary reason is that the newspaper wanted more video coverage and the existing staff may have pushed back on that, for any number of reasons. (I don't have any personal knowledge of the Chicago specific situation).

Take a look at the NY Times web site and you will see that it is turning into a virtual TV channel. In fact, I think that is probably the long range plan. OTOH, although I don't think the New York Times has hired a staff photographer in a long time, I also don't think it has laid off any. I the NYT case, I think the newspaper has expanded the scope of the work and it appears that they have a virtual army of freelance photographers -- both video and still -- to produce the output for both print and digital. This is in addition to the staff photographers who appear to still produce the bulk of the output for the news pages.
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Old 05-30-2013   #31
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In one fell swoop, a very large news gathering organization has indirectly publicly stated that they no longer value the Pulitzer Prize, an American award for journalism excellence that people have paid with their lives for. For it should be glaringly obvious that this is just the first round of creative editorial layoffs that this paper will announce and such in depth reporting that would take a Pulitzer will be nearly impossible for those left on staff to execute when over-tasked…

This announcement has sent shockwaves through the communities I am associated with and it speaks to a much larger problem in society looming in the not so distant future. I have called a meeting of the faculty that drives this new media program to talk about this very thing. I was invited numerous times to teach a class on Photojournalism but have politely turned it down each time because I simply don't feel right about these future students learning a trade they will likely never be able to monetize. So the meeting will address an opportunity that the program has, to start considered and informed dialogue as to what do these students want their brave new digital world to be and what are they wiling to sacrifice to see it happen…are they OK with a world where less and less people are paid to dedicate their lives to creative pursuits that will never pay them, only profit the large corporations that will control the majority of the content?

What do we want our future to be and do we realize yet that not only are we seeing ecological climate change that will be irreversible but social climate change that will also be irreversible?

This announcement could be a loud enough "bang" that we ought to start to *really* question how safe anyone's job is and how this could get much, much worse in the very near future…..

This is no longer a case of "Oh well, adapt or die!", in my estimation this is far bigger than that and we had better wake up to it and not just feel bad for "The Other Guy"….
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Old 05-30-2013   #32
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this might be a naive question...but wont blogs and social networks just replace the printed newspaper?
pulitzers can be won by bloggers? etc.
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Look for format change
Old 05-30-2013   #33
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Look for format change

I guess this means that the Sun Times will now have to be printed in landscape mode instead of portrait mode since all of the iPhotographers and iVideographers have yet to learn to rotate their cameras to a horizontal orientation to GET THE SCENE TO FIT!.



On the other hand, sales of PTGuiPro will increase!
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Old 05-30-2013   #34
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Quote:
Originally Posted by bobbyrab View Post
This is the cost of our collective purchasing habits.
I buy a newspaper now once or twice a week as what time I do have to catch up on the news I can do online, it's not as in-depth, but for the time I have it's enough.
Newspapers are dying because people like me are not supporting them.
I was actually discussing this with my wife this morning and we've decided to take on an online newspaper subscription. As they say, use it or lose it.
I think this is it. The newspaper used to be the primary source of news, now, I buy a newspaper maybe once a year if I'm going on a long train journey or something.

On the other hand, laying off full timers to replace with freelance/contractors is nothing new, and I'm not sure it's indicative of the state of photography.
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Old 05-30-2013   #35
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Newspapers are making a painful transition to the digital age. Digital presentation will necessarily include lots of video. As I mentioned in a previous post, the NY Times is pretty far along in this transition because it started years ago. It is not something that a newspaper can do overnight. It sounds as though in the Sun-Times case, that newspaper has decided to shrink the pie. In the NYT case, the newspaper has managed to grow the pie.
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Old 05-30-2013   #36
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I see a parallel with reality television here oddly. You get an end product that still rates highly and generates the required income but you don't have to hire actors!

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Old 05-30-2013   #37
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You've managed to attack my argument ad hominem…
I can read. You asserted a couple of things but there was no chain of reasoning, no linkage to evidence. You hurled an insult, but made no argument.
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Old 05-30-2013   #38
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They will also need some photo techs to handle prepress work. There's a certain skill involved in prepping a photo for newspaper reproduction. It's not the same as Web display.
Not at all. Many newspapers have laid off enhancers (as they're usually called) and replaced them with products such as ColourFactory. Think of CF as a highly tuned autolevels which is what it basically does. Editors hit 'auto fulfill' and everything is done.

For crucial work, it doesn't come close to a trained enhancer but many papers are happy with the middle of the road results.
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Old 05-30-2013   #39
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In one fell swoop, a very large news gathering organization has indirectly publicly stated that they no longer value the Pulitzer Prize, an American award for journalism excellence that people have paid with their lives for. For it should be glaringly obvious that this is just the first round of creative editorial layoffs that this paper will announce and such in depth reporting that would take a Pulitzer will be nearly impossible for those left on staff to execute when over-tasked…

This announcement has sent shockwaves through the communities I am associated with and it speaks to a much larger problem in society looming in the not so distant future. I have called a meeting of the faculty that drives this new media program to talk about this very thing. I was invited numerous times to teach a class on Photojournalism but have politely turned it down each time because I simply don't feel right about these future students learning a trade they will likely never be able to monetize. So the meeting will address an opportunity that the program has, to start considered and informed dialogue as to what do these students want their brave new digital world to be and what are they wiling to sacrifice to see it happen…are they OK with a world where less and less people are paid to dedicate their lives to creative pursuits that will never pay them, only profit the large corporations that will control the majority of the content?

What do we want our future to be and do we realize yet that not only are we seeing ecological climate change that will be irreversible but social climate change that will also be irreversible?

This announcement could be a loud enough "bang" that we ought to start to *really* question how safe anyone's job is and how this could get much, much worse in the very near future…..

This is no longer a case of "Oh well, adapt or die!", in my estimation this is far bigger than that and we had better wake up to it and not just feel bad for "The Other Guy"….
Exactly. This is a big deal. It reflects and amplifies a series of major transitions in our economic and cultural climate. Some of these changes will be for the better; many more will not.
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Old 05-30-2013   #40
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Easy to say when it's not your job.

Cheers,

R.
I agree with that, I am fortunate enough to be working in a healthy domain at the moment, but who knows how long that's to last. Whenever I hear of mass layoffs or an industry in decline, I think it may very well be myself in that spot one day.
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