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Chicago Sun-Times lays off all photographers

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Nick Griffin
Chicago Sun-Times lays off all photographers
on May 31, 2013 at 11:56:18 am

Woke up this morning to hear this depressing news and thought back to how much this parallels the situation in many local TV stations were reporters are sent out alone with a low cost camera and tripod. The result? All too often poorly framed, soft focused, un-imaginative crap -- and my favorite: the on camera talent is out of focus yet the background is sharp as a tack. Sad when organizations lean themselves out to the extent that they're no longer able to effectively perform their intended function.


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Mark Suszko
Re: Chicago Sun-Times lays off all photographers
on May 31, 2013 at 2:07:23 pm

Yeah, I saw that too. The paper will expect reporters to provide their own images or video, or the paper will buy clips submitted by readers. This continues a sad trend where management keeps dumping the content generation component to balance their books, and then wonder why readership keeps going down.
And without readership, ad revenue goes down.

People subscribe to and buy physical newspapers to get the CONTENT. If you cut reportage, if you cheapen the coverage, you lose readers.

Apparently this is no longer taught at Medill.


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Mark Suszko
Re: Chicago Sun-Times lays off all photographers
on May 31, 2013 at 3:05:24 pm

What I imagine the future of newspapers to be is that they will fire everyone but the editorial staff and the sales deparment, and simply become aggregators of work submitted by freelancers, something like Huffington post.

Those content creators will be independent contractors who license their works to the aggregator, getting a byline and an up-front fee per story, plus a percentage bonus for every extra thousand clicks or whatever the story gets, but can try to get different aggregators to bid for the story if it's hot enough. The best reporters will gain a following and add to the aggregators' "branding". At around $250 per story as a base, a reporter could make around 1800 bucks a week, minus all their expenses, if they file one story a day. The reporters however would have significantly more control over the content, so, they could break up a bigger story into a series over several days, and thus give much more detail and even analysis than a traditional newspaper story.

Reporters or columnists will make their own assignments. Editorial department is responsible for fact checking and placement of the stories.


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Nick Griffin
Re: Chicago Sun-Times lays off all photographers
on May 31, 2013 at 3:54:11 pm

[Mark Suszko] "Those content creators will be independent contractors who license their works to the aggregator, getting a byline and an up-front fee per story, plus a percentage bonus for every extra thousand clicks or whatever the story gets..."

Always the optimist, Mark. Great ideas but let's see what reality brings. And if the Koch Brothers succeed in acquiring "The Trib" and slanting it to their way of thinking it may be time to give up on newspapers altogether -- at least in and around Chicagoland.


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Mark Suszko
Re: Chicago Sun-Times lays off all photographers
on May 31, 2013 at 4:42:08 pm

Nick, the Trib was so attractive to the Kochs because for a long time, it was ALREADY slanted to their way of thinking:-) Editorially-wise at least, it's been a hard-right, conservative pro-buziness paper since the Colonel himself owned it. I'm sadder about the Sun-Times losing it's way.


As far as me being "optimistic" in my musings, I actually find the whole thing rather dystopian, but I'm trying to figure out a model where a paper can make a profit AND actually commit real Journalism in the process. The Trib seems to think the path forward is to fire all the staff and make them contractors to eliminate HR costs.

The costs for printing and distribution are a harder problem, and I think the answer there might be to de-centralize the printing and have local vendors bid to print and distribute a smaller but denser paper on-demand, based on a close reading of customer interest. Theoretically you could even print a small paper at the local Kinko's. With only seven pages of news and ads, and one page of local sports... and it might be customized for each neighborhood or region. Well, it's all just an intellectual exercise anyway...


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Joseph W. Bourke
Re: Chicago Sun-Times lays off all photographers
on May 31, 2013 at 5:46:43 pm

And of course we are in a world now where everyone is a professional photographer/videographer/cinematographer. I live in a small town in New Hampshire, and there are actually several people who have set up websites, shot incredibly long, barely edited videos, and are calling themselves Cinematographers. It's a sad new world...any cub scout with a phone camera is a pro...

Joe Bourke
Owner/Creative Director
Bourke Media
http://www.bourkemedia.com


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Nick Griffin
Re: Chicago Sun-Times lays off all photographers
on May 31, 2013 at 7:40:54 pm

Shoot me now.

"Chicago Sun-Times will train reporters on ‘iPhone photography basics"


http://www.poynter.org/latest-news/mediawire/214954/sun-times-will-train-reporters-on-iphone-photography-basics/


(Oh... wait a minute. This is Chicago we're talking about. Just kidding about the "Shoot me now" part.)


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Joseph W. Bourke
Re: Chicago Sun-Times lays off all photographers
on May 31, 2013 at 10:53:54 pm

Can you imagine the dork factor of a "pro" photog lining up a shot in the street with an iPad? He'll get laughed out of the neighborhood! Maybe they'll outfit him with a felt hat with a "Press" tag on it, just so people will know that he's a "pro".

Joe Bourke
Owner/Creative Director
Bourke Media
http://www.bourkemedia.com


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Mark Suszko
Re: Chicago Sun-Times lays off all photographers
on May 31, 2013 at 11:56:24 pm

I don't have to imagine it, I've already seen small market local reporters using an ipad as a handheld video camera at press events. Yes, it looks as unwieldy and awkward as it sounds. Especially walk-and-talks. The amusing part is when they hold the thing over their head to get a high angle shot, but they can't actually see the framing unless they angle upward, thus losing the framing.... and the audio has GOT to be AWESOME coming off that thing,...


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Ned Miller
Re: Chicago Sun-Times lays off all photographers
on Jun 1, 2013 at 1:16:47 am

No one on this thread has any right to complain unless they have a yearly subscription to their local paper for seven days a week. THAT'S why they fired the photogs. No one wants the print edition anymore and advertising revenue won't sustain them. Simple Economics 101. Ask anyone under 40 if they have a paper subscription. This is a generational divide.

Ned Miller
Chicago Videographer
http://www.nedmiller.com
www,bizvideo.com


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Mark Suszko
Re: Chicago Sun-Times lays off all photographers
on Jun 1, 2013 at 1:33:57 am

So, the photos mysteriously manifest in the online version of the paper from where exactly, Ned?:-)

It's the same telescope, we're looking thru opposite ends. Nobody subscribes unless there is content worth subscribing for. Down here in SPringfield, your lovely capitol, the weekly Illinois Times is kicking the State Journal-Register's butt in terms of profit ratios, while Gatehose keeps cutting more and more reporters and outsourcing it's printing from in-town to a share, non-union print house in Peoria.

The other issue as to why so many papers are failing is plain and simple mis-management: Gatehouse for example is bleeding red these days because it bought up a while bunch of local papers and their debts as some kind of crazy investment at the worst possible time, over-extending the company's credit too far to be safe. Instead of divesting, they are slashing and burning what they still own.


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Joseph W. Bourke
Re: Chicago Sun-Times lays off all photographers
on Jun 1, 2013 at 3:14:43 am

The newspapers which are still going strong here in New Hampshire are the ones who have realized that it's no longer possible to be just a newspaper. One must be a media outlet - and that means video, on the web, and tie-ins with the local/regional television stations to cross promote and help pay for, their content. There was never much here in NH in terms of dailies, and several of the smaller ones have gone under (these were a step above penny-savers), or been swallowed by the larger ones, but there's still a relatively healthy market for newsprint.

Joe Bourke
Owner/Creative Director
Bourke Media
http://www.bourkemedia.com


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Scott Carnegie
Re: Chicago Sun-Times lays off all photographers
on Jun 3, 2013 at 2:49:07 pm

The business is constantly changing, thats the market of supply and demand. Change with it or perish.

http://www.MediaCircus.TV
Media Production Services
Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada


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Tim Wilson
Re: Chicago Sun-Times lays off all photographers
on Jun 3, 2013 at 5:57:25 pm

This is a long way from being a trend. As the Chicago boys have also noted, they're much more indicative of macro economic trends (eg, we can't make more than we spend) that have nothing to do with iPhones.


[Scott Carnegie] "The business is constantly changing"

The WORLD is changing, and focusing on just part of it misses the point.

To Ned's earlier point, I'd been thinking recently that one irony of the mobile web is that it favors words over pictures. Look at how many mobile versions of stories don't have pictures at ALL.

Even when they do, the value of photos on the mobile web is inversely proportional to their value on the tethered web. On the tethered web, give me as many pictures as you can. Make 'em as big as you can. Click to enlarge, baby. Otherwise, all those words are too hard to read. It's just not fun without pictures.

On the mobile web, maybe one, as small as possible. Otherwise, they get in the way of the words. Anything longer than a Facebook post, CERTAINLY for a news article, I'd rather have no pictures at all, thanks. (Hey, and thank YOU Instapaper.)

Not that I don't love pictures. Saying that this is in my blood is an understatement. I started as a photojournalist, and was only one of many in my family. I also had a great-uncle who taught it, one who was a lifer with the AP on Capitol Hill, another whose work as a war photographer was featured in a special exhibition at the Smithsonian when he passed. A cousin spent his career at Newsday. These relatives cover both sides of my family, btw, and I'm leaving some out.) My sister has a degree in photography, as does her daughter who has been a professional photographer for quite a few years now. And while not a photographer, my father was an award-winning publisher of 7 newspapers.

And, true confession, my current online addiction is tumblr, a social media platform that's pretty much ONLY pictures. The mobile version is amazing.

And I'd rather not have a picture in a story I read on my phone.

Ned also mentioned that, at its broadest, this is a generational thing. I remember hearing my great uncles lament that 35mm SLRs marked the end of photojournalism as they knew it -- but it was inevitable, they admitted. The pictures weren't as good, but the cameras were dang near foolproof and bulletproof, definitely smaller and cheaper. Not that you couldn't still do good work with one. In many ways, it was HARDER to do good work with them -- but boy did they love their Nikon system cameras! How did we ever live without these?

Any of this sounding familiar? Pros lamenting the end of "real" work, while buying much of the same gear they're lamenting?

It's hard to think of any job that's not going away. Even here in what's functionally becoming the COW's Geezer Lounge LOL, almost every one of us benefited from the same dynamic on our way in. Doesn't make it any less noteworthy of course...

...but it doesn't make it an easily described trend, either. It's not a trend at ALL yet, and there are no broad conclusions to be drawn. It's enough for now to say that it's a shame the Sun-Times can't find its way anymore and leave it at that.


PS. You want to talk about a grim sign for their future online? I just did a quick check, and 5 of their top 9 search terms, including the top 3, all have Roger Ebert's name somewhere in them. Despite a huge spike in traffic in April (guess why?), their web traffic is down by over 50% in the past 6 months. The next round of job cuts will be more than dudes with cameras.



.


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Mark Suszko
Re: Chicago Sun-Times lays off all photographers
on Jun 3, 2013 at 6:25:29 pm

More examples of Trib fail:

http://extranews.net/blog-outsourcing-journalism-wheres-the-integrity.html

or

http://www.poynter.org/latest-news/top-stories/179555/journatic-staffer-tak...


The WBEZ/ This American Life feature on Journatic should be required listening for any media person.


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Joseph W. Bourke
Re: Chicago Sun-Times lays off all photographers
on Jun 7, 2013 at 4:24:08 pm

Tim -

This Russian poem - anonymous - puts it all in perspective:

GOING TO THE DOGS

My granddad, viewing earth's worn cogs,
Said things were going to the dogs;
His granddad in his house of logs,
Said things were going to the dogs;
His granddad in the Flemish bogs.
Said things were going to the dogs;
His granddad in his old skin togs,
Said things were going to the dogs;
There's one thing that I have to state –
The dogs have had a good long wait.

(Anon.)

Joe Bourke
Owner/Creative Director
Bourke Media
http://www.bourkemedia.com


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