According to a report in the Chicago Tribune, the Chicago Sun-Times has laid off its entire photography staff, and plans to use freelance reporters and photographers in the future to save costs. The layoffs, which are believed to take effect immediately, were announced to the 28-strong photo staff on Thursday morning. In a statement issued by the paper, it suggested that the move was in response to a demand for 'more video content' from its audience.

Statement from Chicago Sun-Times

"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."

The Sun-Times is Chicago's oldest continuously-published newspaper. Today, the paper laid off its entire 28 person-strong photo staff. 

The Sun-Times is the oldest continuously-published newspaper in Chicago's history, and began life in 1844 as the Chicago Evening Journal. It has won numerous awards, including eight Pulitzer prizes, two of which were for photography. One of those Pulitzers was won by photographer John H. White in 1982; he is believed to be among the full-time staff members who lost their jobs today.

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We spoke to Dean Rutz - a staff photographer for the Seattle Times about today's news. Dean is from Chicago, where his father was an executive at the Tribune. Here's what he had to say:

'It's incredibly disheartening to read news like this. And it's incredibly short-sighted. The Washington Times and Newsday did the same thing, and it didn't work out too well for either. It's a terrible overreach by executives who don't appear to understand their own product. They haven't connected the dots on how this affects their product. It's a reactionary cost-savings measure that ends up creating other costs and problems they haven't considered. It denigrates the product, and they'll recognize that in very short order.'

[...] Newspapers that see photo departments as service organizations - meaning pictures are an accompaniment to a story, versus something that stands on its own - see that service as something that can be provided by anyone.'

[...] they don't understand the soul these guys brought to the printed page - and that's what's about to happen to the Sun-Times: the soul is going to be cut right out of it. The personality of this very vibrant city is going to be lost on the printed page. Those images that gave it character and presence and heart and emotion will be replaced by something less [...]. There's a price to be paid for that. It's just a question of when they feel it.'

via Chicago Tribune