The New York Times writing about the Chicago Sun Times firing it’s staff photographers a couple of weeks ago:
The Chicago Sun-Times laid off its entire full-time photography staff …, including a Pulitzer Prize winner, in a move that the newspaper’s management said resulted from a need to shift toward more online video.
The shift toward online video makes sense. Paper-based newspapers are a relic of the past and the devices we all have are perfect for video. Smartphones, tablets, laptops, and desktops almost beg to display video. Hell, some will even watch video through their glasses. But more importantly, I assume most news “readers” today prefer to watch a video than to read a long essay.
But I don’t believe that “people want to watch online video” is the main point in this case. The real issue is that content consumers, in general, don’t like to read long texts anymore.
People are getting lazy. Facebook, Twitter, et al have gotten us used to quick fixes. A few bursts of 140 characters is frequently all people want. An article with more than 250 words is often considered too long.
This is exactly why this doesn’t make sense to me. A photograph with a caption can be very engaging. A series of photographs can tell a compelling story. And people want stories. The Boston Globe wouldn’t be publishing The Big Picture if nobody showed up to see the amazing photography.
Of course, I don’t know the full story. I have no idea what’s happening inside the Chicago Sun Times that would suggest this was the right decision. I can only comment from the outside, but from here it seems like a really dumb move.
And then reading (yes, I still enjoy reading) that they plan to replace the photographers by “training its remaining staff to take photos with iPhones” just makes me want to bang my head against the wall. What the hell are they thinking?
What’s the plan here? Turn the Chicago Sun Times into YouTube?