Opinion

Do Newspapers Need Photographers?

Deutsch: Logo der Chicago Sun-Times

Deutsch: Logo der Chicago Sun-Times (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

On Thursday The Chicago Sun-Times fired all 28 of their photographers. Decades of experience and skill kicked to the curb. They will now use freelancers and have their reporters bring cameras along with their pens and notebooks.

While some of my fellow journalists have criticized The Chicago Sun-Times’ decision, I must play the devil’s advocate.

Professional photography is expensive, after all, and often the most widely viewed news images are amateur-or machine-made: cellphone shots and stills from security videos, as in the Boston bombing.

If there was anything I learned from the $50,000 debt I obtained from Columbia College Chicago, it is that journalism is heading in the direction of convergence journalism. A reporter must be able to not only write an article, but also take the photos, video and audio that will accompany the piece.

In many ways, The Chicago Sun-Times is adapting to the changing profession of journalism. By deciding to have their reporters take the photos and/or videos for their stories, young journalists like me, and my fellow 2013 graduating class, will be hired for the skills that we have obtained from our department.

We were taught not only to write well, we were taught how to used DSLR cameras to take photos for slideshows, and also record video with audio to produce multimedia packages that bring a visual and compelling side to the article.

Video by Chicago Tribune.

The newspaper released a statement suggesting the move reflected the increasing importance of video in news reporting:

“The Sun-Times business is changing rapidly and our audiences are consistently seeking more video content with their news. 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.”

I do, however, feel that this move it a double-edged-sword. It is great for journalists who are coming out of school with convergence journalism skills, but this also means losing talented photojournalists who’ve won a Pulitzer Prizes for feature photography.

John H. White, who spent 34 years at The Sun-Times, won a Pulitzer Prize for feature photography in 1982. He is a legend among Chicago journalists, and was working up until the day he and the others were shown the door.

While this is a great step for young journalists with the convergence journalism skills, it is leaving the older generation of journalists on the curb with no jobs. Ending on a cliché, time will tell where journalism, photojournalism and convergence journalism is heading.

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