Second site Photographer Rob Hart created a Tumblr (“Laid off from the Sun-Times”), on which he documents his “new life [of underemployment] with an iPhone, but with the eye of a photojournalist trained in storytelling.” The photo above shows his new home office.
O n May 30, the entire photo staff of the Chicago Sun-Times—28 full-time photographers, including Pulitzer Prize-winner John H. White—were summoned to the Steamboat Room of the Chicago Holiday Inn, where they learned they were all being laid off. Going forward, the newspaper would rely on freelancers and reporters armed with smartphones to shoot photos and video. In a memo sent later that same day, managing editor Craig Newman informed the editorial staff that mandatory training sessions for iPhone photography basics would soon begin. Whatever Sun-Times investors save from these cuts, asking already multitasking reporters (who likely are more accustomed to taking smartphone pictures of their croissants than of dramatic crime scenes) to replace dedicated photo professionals is sure to be a loss for the paper’s journalism. Cheap and fast is a business strategy that will hurt the quality of both reporting and photography. As Brian Powers, one of the laid-off photographers, put it, “A reporter asks, ‘What happened?’ While a photographer asks, ‘What’s happening?’ It’s really a different way of looking at things.”The Editors are the staffers of Columbia Journalism Review.