Δευτέρα, 3 Ιουνίου 2013

Do Newspapers Need Photographers?

The Chicago Sun-Times fired all of its photographers on Thursday. Out the door went 28 people, and decades of experience and skill. All at once the paper emptied a deep reservoir of photojournalistic talent. 

Before Thursday, it had a staff of professionals with broad knowledge of a great city, with the hard-earned ability to tell stories with pictures — the not-so-easy thing that newspaper photographers do every day.


Now it has some freelancers and reporters toting cheap cameras with their notebooks and pens.

Maybe the business of newspapering is so hopeless that throwing all of this ability to the curb makes sense. Professional photography is expensive, after all, and often the most widely viewed news images are amateur- or machine-made: cellphone shots and stills from security videos, as in the Boston bombing. Who cares about news judgment, composition, story-telling, impact, beauty or whether an image is even in focus? Photos are just something bright and colorful to wrap the text and ads around. They are just digital content, and these days, as news Web sites gasp for air, content needs to be cheap.

But we can’t let Thursday’s demolition pass without applauding the 28 people in the Sun-Times photo department, including veterans such as Tom Cruze, Brian Jackson, Dom Najolia, Al Podgorski, Scott Stewart, Ernie Torres and John H. White.

Mr. White, who spent 34 years at The Sun-Times, won a Pulitzer Prize for feature photography in 1982. He is a legend among Chicago journalists, and was working up until the day he and the others were shown the door. His recent news photos included shots of a formerly homeless veteran, a reconstruction project on the L and Roger Ebert’s funeral.

Like the others, Mr. White was good. His photos are collected in books and hung in galleries.  But he was too good, too expensive, for today’s Chicago Sun-Times.

You can see a few of the pictures that Mr. White took for the Environmental Protection Agency’s Documerica Project, in the 1970s, below:

National Archives and Records Administration
The Kadats of America drill team performed on a Sunday afternoon in Chicago in August, 1973.

National Archives and Records Administration
Illinois Governor Dan Walker greeted Chicago constituents during the Bud Billiken Day parade in August, 1973.

National Archives and Records Administration

Monroe Street Parking Lot in Chicago at Lake Shore Drive. October, 1973.

By LAWRENCE DOWNES

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