Photojournalist layoffs a poor strategy
“A picture is worth a thousand words.”
This 20th century cliche was coined to convey the effectiveness and appeal of photography to an audience.
But in late May, the Chicago Sun-Times, one of the oldest and largest media publishers in the city, laid off its entire staff of full-time photographers.
The paper has accrued many accolades over its 65-year existence, among them eight Pulitzer Prizes, two of which were attributed to its photo staff.
Photojournalism, much like classical journalism, requires skill.
If a picture is indeed “worth a thousand words,” does it not have the potential to be more powerful than the story itself? It’s not simply a point-and-click task but rather a complex job that requires proper positioning, careful editing and captivating snapshots that enhance the context of a story.
Assuming photojournalism is a job that requires no skill would give credence to the notion that reporters and editors, who go through great lengths to compile information, fact check for accuracy and write effective columns, are simply interchangeable, unskilled employees.
The Sun-Times stated that “business is changing rapidly,” citing a transition in demand from photojournalism to video streaming, according to the New York Times. There’s some legitimacy in this logic, as more individuals across the globe obtain their news from Internet sites such as YouTube, which estimates 6 billion hours of viewed content per month.
But does this reason alone justify the dismissal of 28 full-time photojournalists? By doing this, the Chicago Sun-Times gives the impression that photojournalists are incapable of adapting to video journalism and that digital recordings have usurped photography as the visual medium of choice.
Though videos are vital in capturing breaking news, scandals and even revolutions across the globe, a photograph is a timeless print that captures the very essence of a single, defining moment — capable of sustaining a lasting, awe-inspiring effect on its audience, one that rivals its written counterpart in journalism.
Photojournalism is as essential to news reporting as any other facet of news reporting. Though the Sun-Times may be partly justified in its action to shift its business model, firing an entire fleet of trained, award-winning photojournalists will certainly dampen the paper’s ability to produce an appealing news package.