A year ago today the Chicago Sun-Times laid off their entire photography department, replacing veteran photographers with freelancers and reporters armed with iPhones. This move left 28 people without jobs, including pulitzer prize winning photographer John H. White.
White, in a statement to Poynter, said, “It was as if they pushed a button and deleted a whole culture of photojournalism.”
From the Tumblr SunTimes/DarkTimes, Chicago Tribune's coverage of Gay Marriage being legalized on the left and the Sun-Times Coverage on the right.
The Sun-Times explained the decision in a statement to Chicago Business as an attempt to keep up with the times and provide more video and multimedia, “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."
From the Tumblr SunTimes/DarkTimes the Sun-Times Coverage of a flood above, taken by a reporter with a camera phone in their car, and the Chicago Tribunes coverage of the same flood below.
A day after the layoffs were announced, media writer Robert Feder shared a memo from the Sun-Times Managing Editor Craig Newman, telling reporters they would begin mandatory training of iPhone basics.
“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,” Managing Editor Craig Newman said in a memo to Sun Times staff.
The Chicago Tribune has a front page photo of the aftermath of a tornado, while the Sun-Times uses an wire photo from a Bears football Game. From Suntimes/DarkTimes
In the aftermath Chicago freelance photographer Taylor Glascock created the tumblr Suntimes/Darktimes to show the disparity of the work between the Sun-Times and it's competitor the Chicago Tribune. She began posting the front pages of each newspaper to show how the two newspapers were covering the same stories.
Both the SunTimes and the Chicago Tribune cover the death of a sewer worker, but only the Chicago Tribune has a photo of the incident. From the Suntimes/Darktimes
It's been a year, a long year for the photojournalists who suddenly found themselves without work, and a lot has happened since then. In December, the Sun Times made an agreement with the Chicago Newspaper Guild to hire back four photographers that it had previously fired. Those photographers include Rich Chapman, Brian Jackson, Al Podgorski and a fourth whose name cannot be confirmed. These four are the only photographers of the 28 that have gone back to working full time at a newspaper.
The Sun-Times, on the left, has no photo to accompany a story about concert goers being taken to the hospital after Riot Fest. From Suntimes/Darktimes.
Four of the 28 were forced into early retirement, according to an article by Poynter. 61 year old Ernie Torres told Poynter, “I’ve kinda hung up the camera right now.”
Three, including John H. White, have taken jobs in the photo departments of nearby universities. Another four have found jobs at Yahoo and at least three have changed jobs completely, giving up the camera for a different profession entirely. Most of the others have found work as freelance photographers.
For more information on what happened to the Sun Times 28 go this Poynter article that talks to several of them about life after the Sun Times, http://www.poynter.org/latest-news/mediawire/254014/one-year-after-28-sun-times-photojournalists-were-laid-off-where-are-they-now/.