CNN Lays Off Photojournalists, Citing the Accessibility of Quality Cameras

Roughly 50 staffers at CNN were given pink slips today, including nearly a dozen photojournalists. In an email to the staff, Senior VP Jack Womack cited the accessibility of cameras and the growth of citizen journalism as reasons for the terminations:

We also spent a great deal of time analyzing how we utilize and deploy photojournalists across all of our locations in the U.S. […] We looked at the impact of user-generated content and social media, CNN iReporters and of course our affiliate contributions in breaking news. Consumer and pro-sumer technologies are simpler and more accessible. Small cameras are now high broadcast quality. More of this technology is in the hands of more people. After completing this analysis, CNN determined that some photojournalists will be departing the company.

CNN’s citizen journalism initiative, iReport, has proved extremely valuable as a source of imagery during things like disasters and protests. However, it has also received criticism for not paying for submitted photos — even those that are subsequently broadcast worldwide.

(via The Hollywood Reporter via FilmmakerIQ)

Image credit: CNN by Ayushπ

  • Dan

    So now they want to be known as the Cheap News Network?

  • SteelToad

    Just goes to prove, if you give a million monkeys a million cameras … you’ll eventually get crappy news footage without having to pay for it.

  • Anonymous

    What’s next, getting rid of the journalists and put up links to blogs?

  • SteelToad

    You really haven’t kept up with CNN, have you, they’ve been doing that for months

  • Anonymous

    You’re right, I haven’t kept up.  I get all of the important news from PetaPixel.  ;-)

  • r1Gel

    Haha! Good one Dan.
    But, that is sad news.

  • Anonymous

    I can tell you this: if you want to see photos of the occupy movement look no further than Instagram and Twitter. The mainstream news media show me hordes. The Social media show me people, faces, characters, and, dare I say, the news. People with iPhones took more candids than the professionals with 5Ds. Photojournalism isn’t dead – it just doesn’t pay anymore.

  • Ken Shelly

    When will it be the journalists time to go? The public is as good at subjectifying the News as professional journalists. Critical objectivity has long since parted.

  • Rice-y-beans

    Journalists are already almost gone and investigative journalism is long gone. CNN is basically video blogging. We are so saturated with information that we have learned to tune it out. Unless of course somebody says something we agree with then we’re like “see, I told you”.

  • Dennis Marciniak

    Opinions aside – reading this made me genuinely sad.

  • Michael

    That’s not the fault of the photographers, it’s the news editors who select the photos to “tell a story”.

    And yes, a million monkeys with a million typewriters will eventually produce Shakespeare, but sometimes you are on a deadline and can’t wait that long.

    Either way, this isn’t really NEW, the writing for this has been on the wall for a few years already.

  • Graysmith

    Taking pictures? So easy a monkey could do it!

  • Brad Trent


  • Sebastián Soto

    So, photojournalists were hired just because they had quality cameras?

  • Daschund

    Because obviously the photojournalists are being paid for having pro equipment and not for their experience in doing the job over and over again. CNN is sad, very sad…

  • Life List Chase

    The general public may need to be informed that by submitting their high quality iPhone pictures to news agencies aren’t gonna get them paid, neither getting them famous but it will definitely cause professional photographers/photojournalists to lose their jobs and livelihood!

  • SteelToad

    But if you’ve given a million monkeys a million typewriters to produce Shakespeare, but you’re on a deadline … You don’t try to pass off monkey scribbles as a literary classic.

    CNN (especially, but not exclusively) is relying on viewer submitted video, twitter posts, facebook poll’s, and social media browsing to determine what to cover, obtain the coverage, and then judge response to the “coverage”.  That is not journalism, that’s just a social media echo chamber.

  • Michael Crawford-Hick

    Will they send “citizen Journalists” into war and conflict zones now?? as per the film “The bang bang club a true life story and where will the Pulitzer winning photograph and heart stopping photographs come from now – the citizens with no real training in photo journalism, mmmm CNN and other news agencies just think about this before you give pink slips out

  • bob cooley

    We saw this trend start about 10 years ago with still photojournalists.

    First we were asked to write copy – not horrible, but not really our training (or jobs).

    Next it was having to shoot stills AND video at events.

    Next it was layoffs, with point-and-shoots given to writers. 

    It’s not terribly surprising that televised media is starting to take this route.

    Like most of these papers, the content suffers to the point where many of those same publications have lost the majority of their readership or have closed. 

    At some point these outlets will cannibalize themselves as well.

  • No

    CNN and all the other major news networks are crooks and liars anyways. Paid off by the highest bidder, but apparently they needed more by cutting professional photographers off the payroll.

  • Igogosh

    That’s ok. It is the people who don’t like their work (not looking at their soso pictures) who fired them. We decide who gets fired by not clicking on boring photos or not buying shitty products. No need to feel sorry. The will have time to do something better with their lives and cameras:)

  • Ranger 9

    That’s crazy. It would be like firing the reporters because keyboards are widely available… oh, wait, that already happened.

    Eventually big-bucks corporations and high-dollar political operators are going to start paying bogus “citizen journalists” to spam these networks with a torrent “reports” skewed to serve the paymasters’ point of view… oh, wait, that’s already happening now…

  • Ranger 9

    Someday I’d love to read about a corporation firing all its senior executives because there are lots of other people equally qualified to sit in big leather chairs all day and pull short-sighted, arbitrary decisions out of their lower torsos, without insisting on eight-figure salaries to do it…

  • Douglas Klostermann

    “Small cameras are now high broadcast quality. More of this technology is in the hands of more people.”

    I’ve got a professional quality spatula and pan in my hands – so I guess I’m qualified to open a restaurant!

  • Gary

    But I agree with CNN on this one, I would have made the same move.  Its about money and results.  Having photojournalism who aren’t outperforming my the dude with the iphone across the street don’t need to be on payroll.  Quality isn’t as important as cashflow

  • PugetEX

    CNN is a big multinational “TV News” powerhouse. They can’t be everywhere there is late breaking news of storms, accidents, floods, demonstrations etc. So the IReport gives them fast access to material.  I wouldn’t call iReport journalism or photojournalism by any stretch. Togs that have years of experience waiting for that moment to capture, build trust with the subject to get in close or emotion, can problem solve, produce vastly better images than “John Doe” does with his Point & Shoot camera.
    Print Media still requires the respect, knowledge and rules of news gathering. TV and blog coverage aren’t in that realm. CNN has fancy graphics, a host or narrator, some Expert on the phone in breaking situations, they just blend in an iReport image to give the discussion some graphical appeal. Its the writers and anchor that tell the story. The image doesn’t need to carry that 90 sec segment. Unlike in print where a bad exposed, cropped, framed, dull moment is cut and dragged over the trash can icon and never sees the light of day.

    Obviously its a bad move on CNN’s part to drop its staff togs. They have relationships all over the country and the world. Need to get a shot on the White House lawn for the xmas tree lighting or a picture of an exhausted congress member focusing on reading a bill?? you won’t find those shots coming from White House Pool. You’ll be given the same batch of pix as other news networks, you all pretty much look and sound a like anyhow right now, this will make your broadcasts just that much duller and similar.

    I don’t see how the citizen journalist is going to off set 50+ togs with hundreds of years of combined knowledge and experience.
    Does CNN already pay iReporters for their used content during broadcast? Are they going to start??
    So you have a pro-sumer DSLR camera, at first getting featured on CNN would be definite high and exciting time. But that will fade very fast when their work is only credited and not paid for. Why should we risk our gear and health driving into a recent storm area to get shots of destruction and despair and then race back out down country roads to the nearest town with cellular service or internet to upload images to iReport. There are many wire service employed photogs already out there that have sat phones and connections with local TV affiliates to get their stuff out.

    I wonder how many people are going to get themselves in trouble by trespassing, finding themselves in tough situations, having no credentials, a backup plan, or a team to get them help if needed, covering expenses, liability, gear damage etc.

    Out of the 24/7 news orgs CNN was the one I could watch for a while, but now I might have to take a stand against this layoff and do a silent protest and just turn the TV off , find these photographers  G+ and FB accounts and view their stunning images

  • 8fps

    It’s the profit, guys, that make ‘em do it.

  • Travis

    This isn’t new, there hasn’t been a photojournalist in my region for years.

  • Florin

    This is so predictable. Do you still marvel at this. That’s the normal way to go, less and less jobs  for us. That’s why occupy wall street is happening. We cannot keep up with the technological progress anymore. In the next 10 – 20 years more jobs will disappear, capitalism isn’t working anymore. Just creating jobs with no purpose just to boost the economy doesn’t help. We need a new level of thinking otherwise we’ll end up really bad.

  • Ludovic Pessot

    Welcome to crowdsourced photojournalism! I’m glad to learn that anyone with a camera can be a photojournalist. That must mean that anyone with a pen is a writer, or that anyone with a suit can be a CEO…

  • Dennis Bautista

    bullcrap! this is the reason why I never send my photos for free to this news agencies, because I sensed that there will come a time when those photojourn will lose their jobs. this is another case of a company who takes advantage of photo newbies desire to get some media attention. 

  • Wade

    It’s no doubt more to do with cost cutting than anything else. It sounds better to claim it’s some sort of strategic shift than it does to admit outright they need to sack people to save money.

    Some rants on this very subject:

  • Camera For Sale!

    wonder if my tuition came with a money back guarantee ?!  Well this is what happens when information and art come together to form a perfect storm, just to be wrangled by a bean counter focused on the bottom line and profit share

  • Richard Ford

    Listen to the whinging westerners.  Adjust, adapt and move on.  You’re not the first industry or people that have had to change due to advances.  It’s been happening since the dawn of time.  The status quo is what will end up causing everything to be “bad”. 

    Use your better knowledge and experience and figure out a way to create value that people with less experience (the million monkeys) can’t do.


  • 9inchnail

    Are you really surprised about this? Why would CNN pay professionals when there are enough idiots giving up their content for free? Mention their name on television and they are happy. Their 15 minutes… eh, seconds of fame. Deal with it, photography is dying as a profession. People aren’t even hiring wedding photographers any more cause every guest hast a camera and among those hundreds of photos will propably be a decent shot. People are satisfied with “decent” nowadays. “Good” is a luxury.

  • Osmosisstudios

    What’s a “tog”? Please stop using this term.

  • Rob

    This makes sense….until the first “iReporter” gets asked to shoot some more pictures, gets killed and CNN gets sued.  The minute they task someone to get some image or video, they just set themselves up for a BIG settlement – probably 20X what they are “saving” by laying off the staff.  Sure insurance will cover it – the first time.  Then the underwriters are going to either exclude “non-staff” or will jack rates sky high.  All the agreements and click throughs in the world will not count for a hill of beans if a company employee or even a company website asks for more or better images.

    There is also a natural progression going on – one we have already seen in stock photography.  For all the evils of micro stock, the positive is that very few photographers/people with cameras fail to understand that their images have value and are far more likely to ask for some form of payment.  Sites like Demotix let “iReporters” post the same new but get paid.  

    Finally, professionals should never be worried about getting their clocks cleaned by amateurs.  If they are, they need to work on their professional skills, not blame the competition.  

  • Rob

    For every job “destroyed” more are created.  This site is a prime example.  The “job killing” computer and the “hob killing” internet created the ability for this site to support someone full time.  

    At one time, buggy whip making was an excellent career path that promised a good income for life.  Then cars came along and making buggy whips became a dead end.  But far more people were employed in car production than in buggy and buggy whip production.  Whats the head count at Google these days?  

    GoPro (Woodman Labs) exists because people want to put cameras in crazy places – places they didnt even think about 5 years ago.  They currently have 30+ job openings on their website – 30 jobs created by technology that lest people take some of the very images CNN wants.

  • Rob

    heheeh.  I wish I had your ethics.  I dont send them because I want to get PAID!!!

  • Rob

    Exactly.  Be glad you are not living a few millennia ago when farmers “replaced” (killed off) hunter/gathers.  

  • Marisa

     Great comparison!

  • Jesusandkaren

    they’re hiring at GFAONLINE.INFO

  • Paul Conrad

    The real issue isn’t about the “amateurs” getting their images on TV, it’s about the ethics of the organization. Both business and journalistic.

    It has come to their attention that some of the iReports included misleading and falsified information. Do you really want your images from someone who has no clue what constitutes news? Or the ethics of newsgathering? Or a basic understanding of their rights as journalists?

    Didn’t think so.

    This is just a move to cut wages to make the bottom line look better.

  • aboutrc

    Thank goodness someone said it.. I think tog is about as dumb of a term as there is out there.. 

  • Anonymous

    Jack Reznicki and I have been writing ( and lecturing about this topic for over a decade.  Newspapers, networks and local affiliates are being provided adequate imagery by volunteers who receive no money, little credit and often assume legal liability and/or lose their copyright to boot in exchange for contributing images.

    No one in the photography or news gathering industries should be a bit surprised. Lay people couldn’t care less.

    Edward C. Greenberg, Esq.

  • Lincy Jarowski

    Who said CNN is a professional news company anyway?! All I see is hollywood twisted into social newsform. You want to see real news and professionalism…. watch BBC. Of course you’ll miss out on local news but you can still read online or watch your local news stations. Ever since I noticed Nancy Grace, it was determined, its not worth wasting my time watching CNN. I still feel for those that were given the pink slip. But what else to expect from a company like this?!

  • Glennimages

    The degrading of the media has a much broader effect that no one seems to see. It erodes the constitutional right that goes with it. When the media does not produce actual news. It ceases to be relevant. Then the rights afforded the media can be challenged or even dismissed out of hand, with little to no consequence.

  • Flgraphics

    it’s always going to be the bottom line over quality and content. period. Thats the way almost every business seems to be running things lately. I’m in the publishing business, and they are doing the same thing to the graphic designers. Work is actually being shipped overseas to India where they can get the design done really cheaply. They don’t care about the quality. It’s all about the $$$

  • dcfemella

    Totally lame, CNN

  • Christopher Rakoczy

    Uh, if you read the article again, it was 50 total layoffs, “including nearly a dozen photojournalists”, NOT 50 photojournalists.

    And, yes, “tog” does sound pretty lame. I would never refer to myself as a “tog”.