[digital media epistemology: as iPhones and digital cameras have become so ubiquitous, have we lost a sense of the difference between a snapshot and the craft of photojournalism?]
By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS – The New York Times – May 31, 2013
CHICAGO — The Chicago Sun-Times laid off its entire full-time photography staff Thursday, including a Pulitzer Prize winner, in a move that the newspaper’s management said resulted from a need to shift toward more online video.
The union representing many of the laid-off photographers plans to file a bad-faith bargaining charge with the National Labor Relations Board, a union leader said.
The Sun-Times Media company didn’t immediately comment on how many jobs were affected, but the national Newspaper Guild issued a statement saying 28 employees lost their jobs. The layoffs included photographers and editors at The Sun-Times’s sister publications in the suburbs.
“I’m still in shock,” said Steve Buyansky, a laid-off photo editor for three of the group’s suburban newspapers. “I’m not angry right now. Maybe I will be later.”
Mr. Buyansky said about 30 photographers and photo editors were called to a mandatory meeting Thursday morning where the editor of The Sun-Times, Jim Kirk, “talked for about 20 seconds” telling them the layoffs were a tough decision.
Mr. Buyansky said Pulitzer Prize-winning Sun-Times photographer John H. White was in the room and was among those who were laid off. “It’s sad,” said Mr. Buyansky, speaking from the Billy Goat tavern, a longtime watering hole for Chicago journalists, where about 10 laid-off photographers congregated after the meeting. “The Sun-Times had an amazing photo staff.”
Sun-Times Media released a statement Thursday to The Associated Press confirming the move: “Today, The Chicago Sun-Times has had to make the very difficult decision to eliminate the position of full-time photographer, as part of a multimedia staffing restructure.” The statement noted that the “business is changing rapidly” and audiences are “seeking more video content with their news.”
The executive director of the Chicago Newspaper Guild, Craig Rosenbaum, said an unfair labor practice charge would be filed in reaction to the company’s announcement. The union is negotiating a new contract and the company told the union at the bargaining table recently that no layoffs of photographers were planned, Mr. Rosenbaum said.
Like most major newspapers, The Sun-Times, which was bought by the investment company Wrapports in 2011, has been hard hit by the technological shift that has cause more people to rely on their personal computers and mobile devices to stay informed. As more readers have embraced digital alternatives, so have advertisers in a move that has been steadily siphoning away newspaper publishers’ biggest source of revenue.
The Chicago Sun-Times ended September 2012 with a paid circulation of 263,292, according to the most recent statement filed with the Alliance for Audited Media. That contrasted with circulation of about 341,448 at the same time in 2006. Including satellite editions that operate under other names, the Sun-Times” circulation totaled 432,451 in September 2012.