Following the widely-reported layoffs at the Chicago Sun-Times a former Visual Editor at the paper, Robb Montgomery, has written a thoughtful piece for CNN.com about what the decision to move to a freelance work force means for the paper, and the industry as a whole.

These days Montgomery is a media consultant who creates training in smartphone reporting techniques for reporters in Eastern Europe, but spent four years at the Sun -Times, where he worked alongside the paper's team of professional photographers.  

An early version of the Chicago Sun-Times' masthead, in which it calls itself 'The Picture Paper'. The Sun times is Chicago's oldest continuously published newspaper, and dates back to the mid 19th Century.

In the article, Montgomery writes that 'an image created by a photojournalist carries the power to change societies. Great images remain burned into our brains forever.' He also notes that the Sun-Times has built its reputation partly on the basis of photography, even calling itself 'The Picture Newspaper' on an early version of its masthead. Remembering his time at the paper, Montgomery recalls being impressed by the professional photographers he worked with, remembering 'the extraordinary lengths they went to, and risks they took, to make powerful Page One photos or in-depth photo reportage for investigative projects'. 

Photo: William DeShazer / Chicago Tribune

As the Sun-Times moves towards a freelance workforce, and trains its remaining staff in on-the-spot photography with mobile devices, Montgomery worries that although the paper will still carry photographs, what has been lost is 'a tradition of fearlessness, bravery, courage, knowledge and trust that was decades in the making.'

The same article also includes a video interview with Pulitzer price-winning photographer John H. White, who was among those laid off at the Sun-Times last week. It's well worth watching. 

As a historical note, CNN itself laid off 50 photojournalists in November 2011 in favor of using iReporters, or ordinary citizens with smartphones, to provide images for its website, an event the above story does not mention. Popphoto.com, however, reported on the event: