Chicago Sun-Times lays off its photo staff

Chicago Tribune | Crain’s Chicago Business | News Photographer

The Chicago Sun-Times has laid off its entire photo staff, Robert Channick reports. The newspaper plans to use freelance photographers.

“The Sun-Times business is changing rapidly and our audiences are consistently seeking more video content with their news,” The Sun-Times tells Channick in a statement. “We have made great progress in meeting this demand and are focused on bolstering our reporting capabilities with video and other multimedia elements.”

“I think I would read that to mean who’s shooting that video: the reporters,” Mickey Osterreicher, the general counsel at the National Press Photographers Association, said by phone. “I think once again you may end up getting what you pay for.”

The Sun-Times “will increasingly rely on reporters to take photos and video to accompany their stories,” sources at the news org tell Lynne Marek. About 20 full-time staffers lost their jobs, she reports. “We will be looking into all of our options, legal and non-legal,” Chicago Newspaper Guild Executive Director Craig Rosenbaum tells Marek. “We think this is a terrible move for the paper and community.”

In a statement, national Newspaper Guild President Bernie Lunzer called the move “offensive and wrong on so many levels.”

“As a union, we are deeply concerned about the workers who are losing good, family-wage jobs. As an organization of journalists, we are appalled that any newspaper would treat its photojournalists as expendable.”

“I have learned time and again how the eye of a professional photographer can see and express things that I can’t,” he said. “Apparently some accountant/manager can see and express things that I can’t understand. Because this makes no sense.”

Pioneer Press photojournalist Rob Hart told Donald R. Winslow that “Being in the room with [legendary Sun-Times photographer] John White when we got laid off was a highlight of my career.” He said “I just had to walk out” when, he said, Sun-Times editor Jim Kirk told photographers “they were going to have the reporters produce multimedia for their rapidly changing platforms.”

Winslow says three individuals “may have been retained to perform new job duties.”

Photographer Jessica Koscielniak will do video multimedia, photographer Rich Hein will be a photo editor, and a third person will serve as a photo editor in the suburban papers.

In a wrenching bit of irony, the Sun-Times today ran an obituary for its former chief photographer Bob Kotalik. “He knew that you could never publish an excuse, so he always produced,” White told Art Golab. Here’s a glorious series of photos of White taken by Chicago Tribune photographer Scott Strazzante.

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  • JTFloore

    I think the number in upper management should be cut in half, their salary cut by a fourth, and 30 percent of their time should be spent trying to sell ads.

  • Alfred Ingram

    They replaced the feature writers with content from the Chicago Reader. Now the photojournalists are gone. This used to be a city of great newspapers. Maybe, I’m just getting old, but I don’t think we’ve seen the full disaster yet.

  • Jeff

    What could possibly go wrong here?

  • JTFloore

    it is going to be extremely interesting to see how this works out at various levels, presuming it does.