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Chicago Sun-Times Lays Off Its Photographers - for the iPhone?

It is old news now, but the entire Chicago Sun-Times’ photography staff was fired (including John H. White)claiming readers are clamoring for more video news coverage, so they are training their (non-photo) journalist/writers to use the iPhone for photo & video. Hmmm seems very short sighted…

Local Chicago staff photographer, Scott Strazzante (at the competing Chicago Tribune) writes this excellent commentary:
http://newsblogs.chicagotribune.com/shooting-from-the-hip/2013/05/are-you-just-the-photographer.html

“Now its reporters will start receiving “iPhone photography basics” training to start producing their own photos and videos.” http://www.cultofmac.com/229512/chicago-sun-times-lays-off-entire-photo-staff-will-give-reporters-iphoneography-training/#EOYKuw76PhxyhvP7.99

http://www.nytimes.com/2013/06/01/business/media/chicago-sun-times-lays-off-all-its-full-time-photographers.html?_r=0

by Erik Annis at 2013-06-04 16:34:38 UTC | Bookmark | | Report spam→

Hi Erik, I wrote an absolute scathing post about how shortsighted this act of stupidity was on my Facebook page and my brother… who is a journalist… sent an email blasting me for having a rant about it.

Perhaps one of the greatest lies that I see being perpetrated by the media is that they have no money to buy content… if this is so how come they still have shareholders?

Why are any newspapers or magazines still running if they are so poor they can’t afford good pictures?

Thanks for reminding me about this I think its time to write another blog…

by lisa hogben | 06 Jun 2013 23:06 | Sydney, Australia | | Report spam→
Lisa- agreed – could you copy/ past your Facebook “post/ rant” here?

by Erik Annis | 07 Jun 2013 17:06 | | Report spam→
To all. this kind of posts don’t help. We are this way the audience, confused by information, usually a lot, that is not connected and have no relation between them. In journalism, one of the most valuable questions is why. I am busy now cause I live yet in a bubble down here, I am still a staff photographer. But I am worried by all this signs of the time or new modernity. Why there are not good budgets to photo departments? why video is a rule if in most of the cases the public don’t end to see the video and jump to another thing or a video about some blooper? Are there any explication of this changes telling that the advance of technology is guilty? I think no, I believe is a enterprise and editorial decision. And that the things are more complicated.

by Hernan Zenteno | 08 Jun 2013 03:06 | Buenos Aires, Argentina | | Report spam→
Hernan, I believe things are very simple. The audience is not the same as the days when everyone believed in a single information source. The days of Time/Life are long long gone…

Indigenous people, the environment, Monsanto I mean everyone is on to it now because the information is reported by “the citizen journalist” and while most of it is badly written and photographed its the immediacy of twitter and facebook that disseminate the information and devalue the instant ‘news’ hit…who needs a trained photojournalist when people can send you their iphone pics for free?

I still read newspapers… and from all over the world… and the subscription rates for many of them are very reasonable… I just read online now..

I don’t watch videos a lot because they annoy me are generally badly done and they are slow and chew enormous bandwidth and if you live in a place where its expensive and not limitless is an actual issue.

What I have noticed on Facebook in particular is that people repost long form features and essays which are often very well researched and decently written investigative pieces.

And people do enjoy them.

I believe the problem is all out own fault. This whole trend started years ago in the mid 90’s when I remember clearly one of the pic eds I worked for started screwing down photographers fees and Getty started giving images away. The management was all about getting the most it could for nothing which has only benefitted its shareholders.

It was the same in every industry… Essentially what happened was the CEO’s of each company wrote themselves ginormous 3 year contracts and instead of increasing productivity they simply stripped out the "non-essentials’’ and cut staff… the company profitability did not increase in a real sense it merely appeared so because everyone stopped paying for stuff.

The CEO’s walked away after a few years with ridiculous amounts of money and they destroyed many fine companies. Bit like what the banks did in America. That kind of irresponsible management should have seen loads of people go to gaol but the America government did its best to bail the financial markets out.

What we are getting is a result of allowing the financial power to reside in the hands of too few.

But on the flip side of that photographers in particular seem to have screwed themselves over more than any other group of workers… people were willing to cut their prices, the technology became so accessible monkeys take better photos than a lot of so called photographers whose work I have seen and there are just too many people wielding recording devices.

Now because everyone gives their photos away I don’t believe being a photographer is a viable profession anymore.

My solution? Well luckily I can write and so I am now morphing into a visual journalist rather than a photojournalist.. and most of the photojournalists I know have morphed into artists…

I don’t believe that photojournalists can survive anymore…and with the amount of young guys coming into the industry who are prepared to give their stuff away then we will never have an industry where anyone takes us seriously anymore.

So the only thing is to become a master of journalism in all its forms… forget news and little jobs and do big in depth features that no one else has got and that are relevant to as much audience as it can be. People are basically selfish and are only interested in their own worlds so you just have to hit on what section of people you are appealing to and stick with it.

Its no surprise the guy that sacked the 28 photographers is the same guy that did the same thing some where else.

And as much as you can rant about someone like him he got the job based on the fact that he could do what he just has. And who wins? Well the share holders and CEO’s because they get everything for free and they can sell it… who loses? Well the content provider and the citizen journalist because the citizen journalist will never get paid for their work…they bring down the quality of the news information that is out there but worst of all when they get published they think its really amazing…

Does anyone remember that woman that got an iphone pic of some rocket launching into space? Or Usain Bolt grabbing a camera from some guy on the track? I mean I know that the woman said she wanted to be a photographer after getting a lucky shot… I mean that happens…but where is she now? Did she ever make any money out of that shot?

I would say not but a lot of news outlets did…

So its not surprising where we are at the moment… I think Teru has the right idea…I went to a talk he had at the Sydney Opera House… he was partnered by a responsible fashion company called Saxony… and his beautiful work was shown and he talked about it… great stuff… and do you know what?

I think I was the only photojournalist in the audience… everyone else came from different sectors of society… but they were interested in his stuff…

Anyway I don’t believe the situation is because its about the audience… I believe the problem is because we as photographers are just dumb and have allowed this to happen and that the CEO’s and shareholders are laughing all the way to the bank…

Essay done for today but I don’t think this is just a matter of accessible technology…

by lisa hogben | 08 Jun 2013 05:06 | Sydney, Australia | | Report spam→
So. Putting clean the big lies about media in the start of XXI century:
-They are short of budget for content.
-The audience wants video, no good video, instead crappy videos cause they have no budged to good productions.
- A photojournalist could be changed by adding a device to the writers.
I am curious about tablets. Didn’t this devices solve the problem of sell advertisements? The solution don’t worked the way expected or what?
I see that a lot of photographers are trying to find a niche in the art world or doing workshops but if we are a lot doing the same I doubt this will be a solid solution.
Emphasis is asking support. So the supporters are needing support. Are this model ending?
Good to know that Teru is doing well, good for him, but I can’t understand what the hell have to do the clothes with Afghanistan landscapes.

by Hernan Zenteno | 10 Jun 2013 21:06 | Buenos Aires, Argentina | | Report spam→
well I think the problem is that lots of media outlets can afford a lot of stuff but none of it is about content provision!

Perhaps Teru could explain better than me but it was a partnership that Saxony showed his photos in their shops and it stimulated interesting conversation which I believe created a space and people would hang around, thus generating interest in the clothes…

Whatever… it worked incredibly well at SOH

So if clothing companies can afford content then why can’t media companies?

You gotta wonder…

by lisa hogben | 11 Jun 2013 02:06 | Sydney, Australia | | Report spam→
Thanks Lisa, interesting thoughts.

To cheer you all up: I wish you all were able to understand Finnish; few months ago on the web forum of a Finnish pregnancy and newborn magazine (!) someone started a discussion: “Is there possibly a more useless profession than photographer?”.

The arguments were for example “Unbelievable that it is a real profession for which you get paid. They must consider themselves really important people.” and “What sense does it make to send a photographer to snap pics for a story when the writer can carry out that world’s simplest task by him/herself.”

Well – I can also tell that going quickly through some posts most repliers were against the person who started the discussion; including some journalists/writers who declared that under no circumstances would they also take photos beside writing. And there was someone who replied to the discussion starter that ‘oh you think it’s enough if the papers and magazines only display ugly and blurry “readers’ shots” taken with a cell phone?’.

But the point – a depressing and disturbing one – is that no, some audience still can’t tell the difference… Or is it that they can’t tell the difference NOW as the leading thought in the publishing often seems to be “anything goes as long as you recognize the president/demonstration/site/etc. in the picture” and the audience don’t see high quality photos so often anymore? For example Italian newspapers don’t have (magazines do) photo editors – and you can see that they don’t.

Cheers,
Laura

by Laura Larmo | 11 Jun 2013 16:06 (ed. Jun 11 2013) | Milan, Italy | | Report spam→
This situation has been on the cards for a long time.

The way I see it…you either continue to try and earn a living as a “Photojournalist” ..unlikely….or you broaden your horizons and become a photographer.

There is work out there in other genres but you have to really work hard to to attain it. I regularly hear photographers bitching and moaning about the lack of prospects.

Many photographers are at the top of the tree because they were totally committed to building strong portfolio’s and were prepared for the inevitable knock backs.

by Charlie Wate | 11 Jun 2013 18:06 | NYC, United States | | Report spam→
Charlie. I don’t know who you know about bitching. I usually bitch about payment, about unprofessional people. But I was struck with woods, I waited for pee for hours and hours to get a photo, etc, etc. Almost all I know in the staff I work, with all the differences we have, are passionate people about photojournalism. I don’t see the same in heads of the companies. They are managed by people that known nothing about the street or journalism. They are marketing people, business people or simple office operators. One of the big problems we have is that several of us are bad doing business. Maybe would be a good idea for someone give workshops for business or about entrepreneurs practices for photographers :P
Anyway. I was trying to push some more thinking and informations from the first world countries to get a better idea of the magnitude of the problem but I think that at last all are lost in the new model of this industry.

by Hernan Zenteno | 12 Jun 2013 00:06 | Buenos Aires, Argentina | | Report spam→
While print publications are steadily losing ground in the US, the trend is exactly the opposite in the rest of the world. Certainly in the non-industrialized countries and, to an extent in other industrialized countries, circulations are booming.
So, let’s get past the American perspective. What is happening in the US is not happening everywhere. There are some very valuable lessons to learn from the rest of the world. Maybe it is not too late to use that information in the US.

by Richard Lord | 13 Jun 2013 10:06 | Nairobi and Kisumu, Kenya | | Report spam→
Hi all. I just posted an article about this issue. I paste here the link in case someone wants and have time to read
http://hernanzenteno.wordpress.com/2013/06/27/photojournalism-in-zombieland-en-espanol-abajo/

by Hernan Zenteno | 27 Jun 2013 12:06 | Buenos Aires, Argentina | | Report spam→
There’s an interesting article today on the NYT Lens Blog about John White who was laid off by the Sun Times:

In Flight, John White Shares His Light By MICHELLE AGINS
http://lens.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/06/27/in-flight-john-white-shares-his-light/

by henley | 27 Jun 2013 16:06 | | Report spam→
Hi Henley. I read it but is more about memories than about how to understand why we ended in this scenery. Today we have the technology to share a lot of things but I am worried about how we take all this data to understand why and how happen all this. I really need to contextualize the situation. Is not a change that was from the last few years. Is almost a decade or more of continuous deterioration of our profession. And the worst thing to think is that apparently we can’t do something to rescue us from the bad situation. Is not our responsibility, we did what we could. Now we need to other horizons.

by Hernan Zenteno | 30 Jun 2013 01:06 | Buenos Aires, Argentina | | Report spam→
Finally I want to give my thanks to Erik cause in a way or another we ended (or at less I hope that) discussing the important.

by Hernan Zenteno | 30 Jun 2013 01:06 | Buenos Aires, Argentina | | Report spam→
If you’re interested, another article on the subject:

http://inthesetimes.com/working/entry/15251/laid_off_photojournalists_why_a_picture_is_worth_a_thousand_words/

by Laura Larmo | 30 Jul 2013 17:07 | Milan, Italy | | Report spam→

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Participants

Erik Annis, Photographer Erik Annis
Photographer
[undisclosed location].
lisa hogben, Visualjournalist! lisa hogben
Visualjournalist!
Sydney , Australia
Hernan Zenteno, Photographer Hernan Zenteno
Photographer
Buenos Aires , Argentina ( EZE )
Laura Larmo, Photographer Laura Larmo
Photographer
Milan , Italy
Charlie Wate, Photographer Charlie Wate
Photographer
Nyc , United States
Richard Lord, Photographer Richard Lord
Photographer
(Worldwide Corporate and NGO Ph)
Nairobi And Kisumu , Kenya
henley, Photographer henley
Photographer
[undisclosed location].


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