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Chicago Sun-Times could rehire photographers after replacing them with iPhones

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chicago sun-times building (shutterstock)
chicago sun-times building (shutterstock)

Four of the Chicago Sun-Times photographers who were fired earlier this year could be hired back as part of a newspaper union's agreement with the paper's owner, Sun-Times Media. The Sun-Times faced considerable criticism over the summer after laying off all 28 of its staff photographers — including one Pulitzer Prize winner — and implying that they could be replaced by freelancers and reporters trained to shoot photos and videos with iPhones. Though only four photographers would be returning as part of the agreement between Sun-Times Media and the Chicago Newspaper Guild, the deal would also give all guild members added job security and more pay. So far two of the Guild's five units have ratified the new agreement, and the remaining three will vote tonight.

"I wish we could have done more."

According to the Chicago Tribune, the four photographers may not end back up at the Chicago Sun-Times — the agreement will apparently allow them to be placed in any of Sun-Times Media's newspaper units. It'll also have one major change in store for them: previously, photographers had limits placed on what video they could be asked to shoot, but that limitation has reportedly been removed now as Sun-Times Media begins focusing more on video content.

The agreement certainly isn't a complete win for the union, but it makes headway into restoring those jobs for its members. Sun-Times Media may even be fine with the concession in the hope that it'll recover some of the good will it lost with readers over the summer. Only 17 of the fired photographers are eligible to be rehired under the agreement, however, as the others weren't members of the union. The 13 union members who aren't chosen will be given the option of receiving some small amount of compensation too: Sun-Times Media will offer them a one-time payment of $2,000 if they agree not to take legal action against it. "I wish we could have done more, especially for the photographers," guild unit chair Teresa Auch Schultz said in a statement. "We still have more work to do, but overall I'm happy."