When the Chicago Sun-Times laid off its entire photography staff last year in favor of equipping reporters and freelancers with iPhones to shoot photos and videos, many people were outraged. Although the paper’s owner, Sun-Times Media, agreed to hire back four photographers, it seems the Sun-Times may have established a precedent – along with many struggling newspapers that have had to scale back due to decreasing circulation, while having to beef up video content for the Internet. A British publishing company last month sacked its staff photographers at newspapers across England, and now the Orlando Sentinel in Florida has announced it is shutting down its photo department, affecting 13 jobs.
The Florida situation is slightly different, however. While the photographers were told their jobs are no more, they had until today to apply for new jobs that are available. The new duties, according to the NPPA, are more “videocentric” and focus more on producing videos for the paper’s website; the new jobs are open only to Sentinel employees. The photographers would be told on March 10 which new position they would assume.
“There are two new positions defined as ‘mobile photojournalists’ who will be shooting video in the field on iPhones or iPads, not using DSLR cameras, and posting video to the Web. And there will be two video editing positions, two video coordinator positions, and two manager’s positions,” a source at the paper told the NPPA.
Like the Sun-Times, the move demonstrates that newspapers have to shift resources to the Web. But relying on citizen journalism or reporters with iPhones could diminish the quality that seasoned photographers bring to the paper. It’s a sign of the times, and many photojournalists now have to incorporate video skills into their repertoire to cope with the changing landscape of the newspaper industry. Do we still need experienced photographers, or does an iPhone do just as good of a job in reporting the news?