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Do Newspapers Need Photographers? Chicago Sun-Times Said "No"

Jun 17, 2013

Just about everybody is packing a smart phone these days -- a smart phone equipped with a pretty decent digital camera.

And, as a cost-cutting move, the Chicago Sun-Times newspaper has fired all of its photographers and will, instead, rely on reporters taking news pictures with their smart phones.

But, Kelly McBride of the Poynter Institute's "Sense-Making Project" said having a camera does not make someone a professional photographer.

"We amateurs cannot do the same job as professional photographers and videographers," McBride said. "We can learn some of the tricks of the trade but the quality will never be as good. And, on top of that, when you have reporters doubling up and trying to do the work of a photographer, too, both the reporting and photography suffer."

McBride said a reporter gathering facts on a story will not have the time to do what a photographer does best -- find the perfect picture to add to that story.

"They have an eye and an experience that allows them to see that moment and to press the button at the right time and it enhances the way we tell stories about our communities," explained McBride.

The Sun-Times may be responding to a consumer trend toward the less sophisticated in journalism, but McBride said the paper may have underestimated its readers.

"Consumers have definitely altered their taste. There is a preference for an amateur-type photography and videography because it implies an immediacy or a sense of rawness. It doesn't have the polish," McBride said. "But that  doesn't mean that's what consumers want all the time. In fact, when there is a very powerful professional image, those things go viral and consumers like that, too."