Chicago Sun-Times fires its photographers; smartphone pics may supplement freelancers

Chicago Sun-Times fires its photographers; smartphone pics may supplement freelancers

Summary: I capture photos all the time with my smartphone, but for serious photography nothing beats a DSLR. Still, there's a lot more to good photojournalism than the physical camera.

Chicago Sun-Times fires photographers, smartphone pics may supplement freelancers
(Image: Nokia)

We have all seen the decline in newspaper and print media as our world changes to one where information is consumed online.

Yesterday, the Chicago Sun-Times laid off its photo staff. On Twitter, the wife of one of those fired stated that reporters would be using their smartphone cameras, likely to supplement photos and videos from freelancers.

The official statement from the Chicago Sun-Times, quoted below, doesn't specifically state that reporters will be using their phones. We don't have all the details of what was said in the firing process so I won't make assumptions that all future photos will come from smartphones.

I use my smartphones for photos all the time and they have gotten better over the years. However, a smartphone cannot come close to comparing with a DSLR when it comes to capturing details, clarity, low light shots, and scenes from any distance. People want thin, pocketable phones and smartphone cameras are good primarily for social networks and online sharing.

The real concern people have with the broad firings is that many of these professional photographers have connections and access throughout the city that a freelance photographer may not provide. The Chicago Tribune posted an article in response to the firings that details many reasons why such a broad sweep doesn't make much sense. As that article states, reporters and photographers take quite different approaches to covering a story; therefore, having reporters take photos is not going to give you the same quality story.

The Chicago Sun-Times statement:

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 agree that people are looking for more video content and in that regard smartphones are doing well at capturing high-definition action, arguably better than capturing still images. A device like the Nokia Lumia 920 or 928 with optical image stabilization really can capture great video, but not at any real distance from the photographer.

We are moving fast to an online media society, but beyond the camera I think it is important to still have people specially trained and experienced in photography along with us to help capture and tell the full story.

Topics: Mobility, iPhone, Smartphones

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  • not the camera

    Hard to explain the obvious - it is not the camera, but the eye behind it which makes all the difference. Sometimes, a little luck timing is everything.
    • not the camera

      It's actually easy to explain:
      Give an amateur a professional camera and they will give you amateur photos
      Give a professional an amateur camera and they will give you professional photos
  • One of them was a Pulitzer Prize Winner

    Has anyone won a Pullitzer with an iPhone camera yet? (Oh, how Nokia would love to be able to claim that title!)
  • crappifying the media

    I've noticed a proliferation of lousy smartphone camera shots and uninformed Twitter tweets presented as "breaking news" on local media. It's like the media have given up on actual newsgathering and just want to be the aggregators of junk.
  • Still vs. Video

    I know I'm old school, but I prefer stills with my news, because I like to read (yes, read) the story, instead of it being "pushed" onto me, the way I think video does. Real-life video to me is usually boring, a photo augments and enhances the story, and in many cases a single dramatic shot tells the entire story -- a picture worth a thousand words? And it really is the photographer (not to mention the subject) and not the camera that usually makes the photo.
    • Not to mention you don't have to sit through a 30 second commercial with...

      ...a picture.
      • True, but a ZDNet slide show is almost as painful.

        Still, the world is moving to online news and the printed newspaper is near the end of it's evolutionary journey.
        • ZDNet should not claim they are tech site

          when their board is just *rap and their slideshow system is worse than some the ones we have in 90s.
          Ram U
  • The Other Part

    is that professional photographers are hopefully trained in journalism ethics. All we need is a bunch of wanna-bes posting photos of "suspects" to get a quick buck and a few more people committing suicide because folks without enough sense to not immediately cry wolf before they know anything with certainty ruined their lives.
    • Just what they are after...

      Maybe a scandal is what that paper needs for someone, anyone to pay attention to them again. I used to read them daily until about the early 90's, and I don't think I have at all since.
  • So Rupert Murdoch is a cheapskate

    The Tribune will probably hire the better photographers laid off as a result, and readers in Chicago get to decide what paper they want to buy. And it should be remembered that loyalty up never exceeds loyalty down.

    We'll find out some time next year if the Sun-Times made a good decision; but my condolences to those losing their jobs.
    John L. Ries
  • We do not need no photographers

    Any shmuck can take beautiful photos with their iphones and sing on the radio (just look at american idol contestants). And who reads newspapers and looks at still photos?
    We are interested only in cat videos anyway.
  • Photographers??? We don't need no stinking photographers!

    I've always resented the smug statements of politicians, media commentators, corporate executives who talked of how, in America, if you worked hard you would become rich. The meaning of that was if you were poor it was because you hadn't worked hard enough. I knew this was a lie, about my father and millions of others, men and women who worked harder than anyone, harder than financiers and politicians, harder than anybody if you accept that when you work at an unpleasant job that makes it very hard work indeed.

    ― Howard Zinn
  • It's just another case of Corporate Greed

    The owners of the newpaper won't be happy until they make 1000% profit for every dollar they stole from the people; and things like "wages" are major annoyance to them because they see that 'cutting into their profit margin'.

    Rather than put out a decent article, everyone wants to snap a lousy quick photo, type two words and make a hundred thousand dollars.

    And when the day comes that the Memory hole consumes anything older than 1 sec, no one will ever know, because we are going to be the most clueless bunch of morons around. The politicians will be able to do a Romney run, where they can say anything they want without fear of it being 'challenged' because any news older than 1 minute will be 'ancient history'.

    Sad, but we are building the walls of our dungeon and the Corporations are supply the Bricks, mortar and hods.
  • Gawd....

    Not long ago, a Boston TV news crew was out and about in a coastal area north of Boston during a storm filming trying to get some "dramatic" footage. It was suppose to be one of those weak storms that news stations love because they can get nice looking footage of their reporters being windswept with rain without anyone actually being in any real danger. The storm, though, turned out to be real storm, and that news crew got more than they bargained for. They had put their regular equipment away just before a house they were standing near started to collapse into the water. The couldn't set up their gear in time so somebody whipped out his/her phone and got....laughably lousy footage of the event. It was held the wrong way so it was just vertical stripe that didn't show much and it wasn't held steady on top of that. It might as well been a suburban mom or dad in an SUV using a smartphone to shoot a nearby tornado that touched down.
  • Maybe its...

    ...a result of really terrible one sided reporting for so long that as soon as a third source came out, everyone is dropping the traditional media like a hot potato? After all, the IRS Scandal, spying on the AP, the UN Arms Treaty and others all started on the alternate sources, and they were correct while the news media was taking pictures of cute puppies...
    Tony Burzio
  • media

    #1 complaint--I wish the media would quit interchangably using firing and layoffs, true the person lost their job, their is quite a difference in connotation. If you are fired, it is because of something you did wrong (usually), if you are laid off it is because of restructuring/financial problems or if in the case of a corporate buyout it is because of duplication in jobs. I have been laid off, but never fired.

    It is sad that they had to come to that decision. It is true that a cellphone picture isn't nearly as good as a professional camera or even my point and shoot camera. The big difference between my camera and my phone is that the camera can only take three minute videos. I can use the zoom feature on the camera for videos, I don't think I can on the phone.
    We haven't subscribed to our local paper (Daily Oklahoman) for a while again, we don't have time to read it, nor is there much to it--it always has seemed to be a small town paper in a big city (not as big as Chicago of course)