Chicago Sun-Times lays off full-time photography staff

May 30, 2013 3:14:13 PM PDT
The Chicago Sun-Times has laid off its full-time photography staff. About 20 employees were informed that they were being let go Thursday morning.

The news this morning came as a surprise to the staff.

Over the years they have captured Chicago history- indeed world history- through the lenses of their cameras.

Today, they are victims of a changing media landscape.

Among his brothers and sisters who shoot stills, John White is considered a legend. The Pulitzer Prize winner today is out of work. So too is Scott Stewart after 28 years at the Sun-Times.

"All of us gone. All of us- in one mass wipe-out," said Stewart, former Chicago Sun-Times photographer.

Some figured lay-offs were coming when they were summoned to a meeting this morning, but the whole photo department? All the shooters at the Sun-Times, Gary Post Tribune, all the Sun-Times suburban outlets- over two dozen photographers- are done.

"Nowadays everybody has an iPhone and what not. Our writers will be the ones taking the pictures now mixed in with some freelancers I guess," said Michael Smart, former Elgin Courier News photographer.

The Sun times says "...business is changing rapidly...". "...our audiences are seeking more video content...", and as a result "...we've had to restructure the way we manage multi-media..."

The iPhone and its counterparts have indeed changed the landscape. Even as we're shooting our story today, a reporter is recording her laid-off photographer interview on an iPhone.

"If something's far away, you're not gonna get a pic of it with an iPhone," said Steve Buyansky, Aurora Beacon News photo editor.

Anyone can take a picture, but it's the trained eye that catches what others don't see, and over the years, the photographers at the Sun-Times have been on the front lines, writing history's first draft with pictures that tell us who we are.

"That is what the company loses: the ability to see something different. That's what makes a good photographer- seeing something nobody else sees, and that's what they are giving up," said Matt Marton, former Southtown Star photographer.

This picture from last night's Hawks triumph is Scott Stewart's last published photo in the Sun-Times.

"I know I gave that paper great images. I know I did. It was a great ride. I did it all. Twenty-eight years. But you know, it's the way things are going," said Stewart.

Pink slipping the entire photography department begs the question: What does the future hold for the Sun-Times?

Beyond an earlier statement, we were unable to reach Sun-Times management to ask our question.


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