Shuttered

When I suggested a few weeks ago that journalists who write need to get decent photographic equipment as part of the process of becoming journalists who write, record audio, and shoot video, I never expected that a newspaper would lay off its entire photography staff. The Chicago Sun-Times, which has a checkered ownership history and, like most papers, dire financials after drinking cream for most of its existence, laid off 20 full-time staff photographers plus part-timers and others in the department on May 30.

The managers told the photographic staff that it would be relying more on video in the future, which is one of the weirdest arguments one could make. What they really mean is that word-based reporters will be expected to shoot pictures and video. They'll go through training in "iPhone photography basics."

In my essay, I discussed the necessity for freelance writers to become more versatile. It's not trivial to shoot a good picture or video, but it's also possible to learn to shoot competently, and it's more likely that a freelancer with varied skills will get assignments and make more money from nearly the same investment of time. And shooting with an iPhone doesn't provide the technical underpinnings to get a good photo in a broad range of conditions, especially indoors.

The Chicago Sun-Times is using the same thinking in laying off photographers that newspapers used previously in reducing the number of comics they ran. They are taking one of the few reasons that people subscribe to a paper or buy a single issue and getting rid of it.