Chicago newspaper fires all photographers, makes reporters use iPhones to snap photos

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This week, the Chicago Sun-Times fired their entire photo staff. All 28 of them. Yesterday, Chicago media critic, Robert Feder spoke with Cult of Mac and basically informed them that they will begin training their reporters in iPhone photography to produce the photo content that the newspaper requires:

Sun-Times reporters begin mandatory training today on “iPhone photography basics” following elimination of the paper’s entire photography staff. “In the coming days and weeks, we’ll be working with all editorial employees to train and outfit you as much as possible to produce the content we need,” managing editor Craig Newman tells staffers in a memo.

Alex Garcia, who is a photojournalist for the Chicago Tribune criticized the move, and rightfully so. Seeing as if the Chicago Tribune follows suite, he’ll be out of a job. Garcia called it “idiotic” since reporters are not prepared to create both visual and written content. He also criticized using iPhones since you don’t have the option to use different lenses and manual controls, which is what DSLR’s have.

An iPhone is just an iPhone. It doesn’t have a telephoto to see way past police lines or across a field, ballroom or four-lane highway. It doesn’t have a lot of manual controls to deal with the countless situations that automatic exposure will fail to capture. How many situations are 18% gray, anyway?

We all know that the iPhone has become the most popular camera on Flickr. Being even more popular than some of the most popular DSLR’s out there like the Canon EOS 5D Mark II. Apple has also worked on improving the iPhone’s camera. The main reason why the iPhone is the most popular camera on Flickr? Simply because you always have your iPhone, and there’s a Flickr app.

Do you agree with Chicago Sun-Times move to fire their entire photo staff? Let us know in the comments.

[via Cult of Mac]

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24 comments

  1. vandamme

    I was just on the Wal-Mart website, being helpful by answering folks’ questions ….wait a minute, we’re tech support too? We gather news and photos for the TV stations, call tips in to the cops….

  2. JMJ

    [@jerome taylor] The only “sense” demonstrated by the firing is of the dollar-and-cents variety: Firing these professional STAFF persons saves salaries, retirement and health benefits costs, payroll taxes, Social Security taxes, Workers’ Compensation Insurance payments, office space and equipment costs, etc. etc. Nobody cares about the families affected or the guaranteed reduction in the quality of the paper’s photojournalism. The fired staff’s photos will be welcomed on an ad hoc basis for a more-or-less standard fee-per-photo. So, this rag will have the benefit of continued access to these professionals’ work at a cut-rate price. Shameful. Capitalism at its worst. Where are Marx & Engel when you need them?

    As to using an iPhone or Windows 8 Phone or any other amateur camera, there is NO way you properly can compose, adjust for lighting, motion, depth-of-field and DISTANCE. And just how would one photograph something like a fire or hostage situation without a telephoto lens?

    I have shot professional cameras since the Nikon F and challenge anyone to simply pick one up and consistently produce professional quality images. It ain’t easy to make a good photo, let alone to tell/report a story with it, too.

  3. jerome taylor

    I certainly do agree that they should not fire those photographers because of the reasons mentioned in the article! Not to mention, their families will be affected by their unemployment status. I really think though, they will come to their senses and reinstate them (even though that may well be wishful thinking) These guys are trained in their field and they do work hard at their craft! SMH!

  4. Coyote

    So with this requirement to use the iPhone is the “duck-face” to be done by anyone being photoed?

    Also this is just assine, it would be like UPS firing all their truck drivers and giving their office staff bicycles with baskets. Sure it looks cheaper on paper, takes less manpower, but in the end you have to consider the tool for the job.

  5. Daniel

    Amateur photographers who also happen to be news reporters.
    There will be lots of images comparable to the “bigfoot”, UFO and Nessie photos.
    That way, they can edit the news to fit the photo.
    Eh, it will make reading the paper a little more interesting.

  6. AT

    When the camcorder became popular, everyone ended up producing unwatchable, blurry, shaky video. The light weight of the iPhone has the exact same effect.

    There’s also the fact that DSLRs are fast. In the hands of experienced photographers, they can, frame, meter and take the pictures before the iPhone camera can switch on.

  7. JMJ

    [@BR] That was a Wite-out-typo-correction-on-the-monitor type joke. Who, but the humor-challenged could possibly believe anyone thinks phones use film? Where would one put it, anyway? In the SD Film-Card Slot?

  8. BR

    This has got a LOT of negative comment in the pro photography world, which is of course predictable, however, I think the photographers have a point.

    The reason is that the management of the newspaper has no idea how to stop the bleeding of its readership to other media and therefore the lowering of its advertising customers who pay big bucks to have those adverts printed. It’s a double whammy for them so they have to lower costs as they are clueless about how to control anything else!

    There is a view that says they need to raise the quality of the offering they make to reverse the constant lowering of revenues in an age of increasing costs. Lowering the quality of things like images printed is the reverse of this. This is not *MY* view, check out Thom Hogan’s web site.

    The Trib also say that people want more video… So do tell me how do you deliver video on a printed page?

    The iphone is the most used camera on Flikr because there are many more non photographers taking pictures of kiddies and flowers or loonies doing dumb things for the iphone. Quality this (usually) is not. Reportage this (usually) is not. Journalism this (usually) is not.

    The reporters will eventually get half decent with the point and shoot cameras they end up with, but the trib might not be around for them to report to by then…

    JMJ – You should know that this industry has been 100% digital for over a decade now.

  9. JonE

    To quote Alex Garcia, “idiotic.” Yes, that’s one word.

    Absurd; that’s the only word that defines this. Absolutely absurd.

    Imagine if you will, if TV stations and Networks fire all their videographer’s and photo people and require reporters to take all the required footage in addition to doing the reporting.

    Doesn’t make sense; absurd.

  10. Frank D

    That’s about as short-sighted as can be. Rather turn the photographers into reporters than the reporters into photographers. Or at least mix them half and half. Sounds like the bean-counters are at work here. Times must be really tough at the newsprint shops.

  11. Mukhi

    if the journalists are assumed to be capturing excellent shots with iphone or the like, i don’t know where the photography is gonna go. yes, the current high-end smartphones can capture a nice photo in strong daylight, but under low-light or critical or typical situations, they just FAIL!

  12. Col. Panek

    My son in law works for an NPR radio station/news website, and he has no problem being a recording engineer, photographer, and journalist. They did issue him a fairly nice camera.