The Chicago Sun-Times this week laid off all 28 of its staff photographers, and has reportedly begun training its remaining reporters on "iPhone photography basics." Media journalist Robert Feder first reported the news in a post to his Facebook page Friday, citing an internal memo from Sun-Times managing editor Craig Newman.
"In the coming days and weeks, we'll be working with all editorial employees to train and outfit you as much as possible to produce the content we need," Newman wrote in the memo, which Feder published in full Saturday morning. Newman goes on to highlight key areas of focus, including iPhone photography, "video and basic editing," and social media.
The paper cut its entire photography staff on Thursday, including Pulitzer Prize winner John H. White. In a statement, the Sun-Times said the move was part of a broader shift, as the company focuses more on video and digital multimedia. Going forward, the company will rely exclusively on freelance photographers — an approach that's common in magazine publications, but rare among newspapers.
"The Sun-Times business is changing rapidly."
"The Sun-Times business is changing rapidly and our audiences are consistently seeking more video content with their news," the paper said Thursday. "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."
Sources close to the company tell the Chicago Tribune that Thursday's cuts were largely motivated by financial interests, as the paper tries to return to profitability. In March, the Sun-Times laid off several suburban editors, following reports that it was struggling to make payments on a $70 million print and distribution deal with the Tribune.
"a terrible move for the paper and community"
Following this week's announcement, the Chicago Newspaper Guild said it would consider legal action against the paper, while urging the Sun-Times to bring back its staff. The union represents 20 of the 28 photographers laid off Thursday.
"We will be looking into all of our options, legal and nonlegal" Craig Rosenbaum, the union's executive director, told Chicago Business. "We think this is a terrible move for the paper and community."