I listened in disbelief to the radio report that the Chicago Sun-Times had laid off its entire staff of photographers -- along with those at their suburban sister papers.
As a former photography professor, I am used to colleagues telling me about the slow attrition in the ranks of photojournalists, but most papers have kept at least a skeleton crew of photographers. Other newspapers have actually increased the number of photographers they employ because of the very reason the Sun-Times' statement gave regarding the layoffs-that "The Sun-Times business is changing rapidly and our audiences are consistently seeking more video content with their news."
Is the Sun-Times hiring several dozen videographers? I doubt it. All the photojournalists I know long ago added video shooting and editing to their repertoire.
What this decision really means is that the Sun-Times will use more wire service images and smartphone pictures and video taken by reporters. Smartphones are great for spot news when no staff photographer is on scene, but they can't compete with professional knowledge and professional equipment.
This is one more instance of ease of technology trumping professional preparation and skill. Credibility is superseded by accessibility.
Not only is this move a slap in the face to these professionals, it is also an insult to the readers. It insinuates a level of visual ignorance in the audience, and it suggests that they won't notice the difference between a reporter's iPhone pictures and the images created by educated, experienced, professional photographers. Today, everybody is a photographer, which means it is even more important to use professionals if your intent is to rise above the mediocre. Roland Miller, Dean/Communication Arts
College of Lake County