- Gary Middendorf/Sun-Times Media
- Pulitzer Prize winning photographer John White (pictured) was one of the 28 photographers laid off by Sun-Times Media yesterday.
A place still remains for staff photography at Sun-Times Media. It graces the corridor walls of the company suite at 350 N. Orleans. Those splendid pictures, spanning decades, saw the company’s current photo staff out the door Thursday when the Sun-Times laid off every last one of them.
The paper strained to find something far-sighted in the dismissals. “The Sun-Times business is changing rapidly and our audiences are consistently seeking more video content with their news,” said a prepared statement. “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.”
But words like “great progress,” “bolstering,” and “continues to evolve” don’t obscure what’s brutal and desperate about these layoffs. Video has transformed the job description of the modern professional journalist—on Thursday afternoon all Sun-Times editorial employees were told they must undergo mandatory training in shooting and editing video, as well as in basic iPhone photo techniques—but newspapers haven’t outgrown pictures. If the Sun-Times chooses not to keep professionals on staff to take them—for its constellation of daily and weekly titles—then it thinks it can’t afford to. Times are tough indeed.