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

  • Christopher Rakoczy

    Except I don’t see people being too inclined to invest in GoPro gear to shoot for CNN since CNN won’t pay for the content. I just suppose we all need to retrain and get hired into the IT/telecom sector, make some mad money and resort to blowing our surplus income on photography as a hobby so that we can help support giant global news corporations.

  • Christopher Rakoczy

    Precisely. There came with the job of photojournalist a financial and professional incentive to perform ones duties with ethics and morals, to be as objective as possible. Uncle Jerry and the kid walking home from his part time job at the Apple Store don’t have that. They’re often in it for the “thrill” of contribution or maybe seeing their name on screen (IF they get that). Yet others may do it to corrupt the integrity of the news and push an agenda. Give a Washington lobbyist a camera, let them submit “news”. They’re already paid to push an agenda with words, why not pictures, and why not on CNN while the “news” still has some vague facade of trustworthyness?

  • Tjsebulsky

    the accessibility of quality cameras!? A quality camera is any instrument used by a trained and dedicated professional. No dollar sign, name brand or lens size quantifies or qualifies a superior instrument without the knowledge, purpose, capability and experience to use it responsibility. A further point of importance is why does CNN limit the accessibility of images to the world wide audience? Is there not enough film, enough gigabytes to store and share images informed through years of technical, political and experiential training as well as allowing equal access to amateur images, inside knowledge and unique untrained perspectives? In an ever increasingly complex fray of information, this world requires professionals to lead the charge. A professional photographer is trained and exercised in more than ISO, aperture, and shutter speed; there is an urgent requirement for moral and ethical awareness and sensitivity. They have been and will remain inspiration to those of us who, in our photographic youth, strive to capture images that enlighten – not inflame. Images that save, not damn. Images that describe and inform. At great risk of sound like a CNN quality alarmist, I ask: Should we now dismiss police or soldiers because of the high availability of quality firearms? 

  • McBagger

    No.  But you are qualified to go into the kitchen and cook!

  • Rick

    Thank you Life List Chase!  As a professional photographer my livelihood has been negatively impacted by clients that don’t want to pay for professional service because someone with an iPhone tells them they they can shoot just as well as a pro.

  • Raine Dragon

    On one hand, from a cost perspective, it is much cheaper to have your average joe who happened to be in the right place at the right time take a picture than to have enough photo journalists on staff that you can get your journalist there in time to get a photo about a developing story.

    On the other hand, I wouldn’t want that average joe taking photos of an important event for me if I was them. It’s all well and good to have our average joe take an iphone photo of a crash or something instant, but no matter how good his equipment is, the photo quality isn’t going to be as good as someone trained in photography’s would be.

    That said, there is a limit to how many “expected” news events there are these days. I would say that like any profession facing automation, or other similar advances, photography needs to find new niches to hold. Stock photo for the web? I don’t know; I’m not a photographer, just a web developer who plays with a camera.

  • david saxe

    Disgusting! no you prefer rumors to journalists. The race to the bottom continues unabated.

  • DanAuito

    Breaking news is breaking news. In many cases if the monkey on scene with the camera doesn’t get the shot, no one will as the moment will have came and went.
    I’m surprised they didn’t let more paid staffers go.
    Change with the times or get blindsided, it’s a fact of life.

  • AlexisH

    Of course, it’s the cameras that make a photographer!  Never mind the years of training that we go through, learning the value of composition and the necessity of aperture, depth of field, and shutter speed to create one-of-a-kind photos.  I mean, if I’d known that all I needed was a small camera to make it as a photographer, I would’ve dropped out of school years ago!

    …CNN, you fail at life!!!  And you have, no doubt, earned the wrath and anger out of anyone in this world who has actually studied and worked tirelessly to become a photographer.

  • Mtholst

    What a cunt

  • Garito

    People should stop giving away their content for free. Its as simple as that. Millions are being made from citizen journalism and the CJs get fuck all. If you want your content on mainstream news give it to

    They sell your content for you and you keep the copyright.

  • AlexisH

    I admit that with the growth in social media, it’s easier to find photos of certain events, but I still am baffled at any major news organization that would rather trust some kid with an iPhone over a professional photographer with years of training and experience.  More than that, they seem to be forgetting that part of the role of a photoJOURNALIST is understanding the world of journalism.  Instead of keeping people on staff who know what they’re doing, they’re gambling on the chance that some blogger will capture a great shot and let them use it.  If they find a blogger who caught a perfect shot, then yes, see if you can use that picture, but please don’t bet the industry’s reputation on people with cheap cameras. 

    This is why I got out of photography, because the public has become convinced that talent is equal to the equipment one holds.  I was replaced at a wedding by the father of the bride and his camera phone. 

    CNN, you fail.  Miserably, terribly, without question, you fail, and I will laugh when this comes back to bite you right on the @$$. 

  • Jamminsjunk

    They laid of 12 Photographers.  How many are there on staff overall?  While it must be scary for those that make their living in the field this seems like a normal contraction that we’re seeing in many businesses throughout the US. The reality is that the iReporter is able to do something that paid on staff folks can’t… happen to be right there when a developing story kicks off. That’s a right place, right time scenario and you’re really not going to be able to reproduce that reality with professionals, the odds just don’t make it feasible. As more of their broadcast content is made up of this type of coverage it’s only natural for there to be a shift in CNN’s need for more traditional formats. I don’t see any suggestions that they’re going to ask for volunteers to cover major assigned events and I doubt you’ll see that professional job position disappear any time soon. It’s more of a commentary on how news happens and is covered in the modern age, not some sort of failure to uphold standards of reporting overall.

  • Robyn Harold

    Crappy news now illustrated with Crappy photographs.  Fitting.

  • Jessica

    I don’t see what the surprise is…I mean, it is sad that people lost their jobs, but the bottom line is money. CNN is a business, and there is nothing wrong with their “ethics”. They simply are doing what a business does–make money. Maybe to me or any other photographer, the iPhone photography is crap. However, to the public eye, not so. Just look at your Facebook. Sometimes I am stunned by the terrible photos that are being “liked” and loved by people. That’s the thing though–most people don’t care. They see the elements of the picture and they enjoy it and move on. In our world, there is difference in photo quality, but to the masses, it’s all the same. Sad, but true.

  • Guest

    First you don’t get to shoot a hot naked chick wearing only post-its, and now this?

  • Dwyer

    It all started with the Towers.  That was the first story I can remember being  concerned with “more” rather than “good” footage.  And technology is eons ahead now.  

  • F2as

    The new focus of CNN’s parent company Time Inc is to produce all media content in tablet form. 72dpi and 100 words or less. The printed version is on its way out company wide once the tablet issues have been established.

  • Michael

    I can see this going full circle.  People will only contribute without payment for so long, before realising that they could get something out of it.  Then we will be back to the days of Freelance Journalism.  Once this happens the media outlets will look at it and say it would be cheaper to have our own staff……….. 

  • Images

    We will get what we pay for. It’s very disturbing.

  • Ken

    And i thought Fox were the turds. Who fact checks these ireporters?

  • Tobsam2

    There’s a photographer around every corner . . . and I keep seeing iphone s listed as the camera of choice, but just about everyone I know has a Cannon Rebel, or better, camera. I have half a dozen friends and relatives that tout themselves as “photographers”. One of the reasons I steered clear of that scene. Digital photography has made great photography available to everyone, not just the elite few. I think that’s where the breakdown started for the pro photographer, not the iphone . . . great photos and the ability to make them isn’t years of school away. Not anymore. Yay for digital!!

  • bob cooley

    I seriously hope you are being ironic.

    Digital SLRs have made mediocre photography available to everyone. Photoshop has made mediocre photography and the ability to add gimmickry available to everyone.

    Great photography is still a matter of intimately knowing your tools, like any great craftsman, and by tools I don’t just mean the camera.

    It doesn’t just mean knowing how to point, frame, hit the autofocus/autoexposure and getting lucky every once in a while with an above-average image.

    Great photography is knowing how to create a result with your tools that can consistently evoke an emotional response from the viewer. 

    Its about understanding relationships in people, nature, architecture, the world around us, and capturing the narrative in a single frame.

    Its about understanding light, and how it affects (and effects) the subject. 

    Its about knowing the physics of what makes a great image (you may not think of it as physics, but depth of field, the flow of light, the use of shutter, the balance of color – all are physics…)  Knowing these tools and the craft allow a photographer to make creative choices that he/she can predict, and allows them to effectively convey what is in their head into a single frame that communicates the photographer’s viewpoint.

    Its not about shooting with Nikon or Canon or Leica or the iPhone.  A good photographer can create a compelling image with any tool they are given (albeit some tools are better than others for different tasks – I’d chose the  Leica for unobtrusive street photography, the Nikon or Canon for sports or journalism, the iPhone for the random image when it is the only camera that is with me). 

    Having a camera (even a pro one) does not make you a photographer.  Having a mastery of your tools, the knowledge of your medium, and the craftsmanship to evoke does.

    sorry – /end rant

  • bob cooley

    Tog is a term used by people who think they are photographers, but like their lazy use of the language, typically think that they images that they create in full auto mode are inspired art.  (sigh)

  • Richard Ford

    I hear that chimney sweeps are starting their union back up.  Going to take it to the electrical and gas industry.

  • Fred

    You have to blame the stupid public who are stupid enough to send in their stupid camera phone shots every time the media says, “now don’t put your life in danger or anything, but send us the shot.” Why? Because yes, the media is as stupid as the public. Now photogs come together, get a great lawyer, or 3, and sue the sheot out of CNN and the rest of the media whores pimping the stupid public’s free, shitty shots!

  • I Forgot

    The breakdown started when people like your stupid friends bought a cheap camera and put it in “P” mode and took a shot of their poodle. Your stupid friends couldn’t support their asses for 20 minutes with their stupidity. Now smile.

  • Richard Ford

     Well people all have brains.  Let them figure out and question what they need to.  That is what we learn in uni right?  We don’t need a bunch of people trying to corale some organisation just in case some fool can’t analyse and process information given to him/her.

    Adults are not children.  We don’t need some mob using “ethics” as form of nannying us.  Even if it is a cover for people – who like the record industry were asleep at the wheel and failed to recognise reality.

    Yet these same people that were so blind to change that even Mr Magoo could see it – are somehow the ones that we want to DOCUMENT the world for us?

    They’ve already proven that they half one eye shut.


  • Dbar

    Can we stop with the stupid comparison. A 10 year can take a photo these days. It’s a step harder than scratching my arse.

  • Rkd

    The cheese moved.

  • Rhody31

    I work in newspapers as a reporter. We had three photogs when I started; one quit, one fired and the final one retired within two years. Then we were told we had to learn photography.
    I’ve worked my ass off trying to become anything but a hack photog. After three years, I’ve learned what makes a good sports picture. I’m not saying I’m a pro, but I’m pretty good.
    That said, when it’s championship time and my paper needs good art, the first call I make is to my freelance photogs because the difference between them – professional – and myself – advanced amateur/low-end pro – is about a million miles.
    I might hit a home run now and then, but it’s barely out of the ballpark; when they hit one, it’s crushed and makes me angry that I can’t do that yet.

  • VAP Photography

    I could do that anyday… I’ll take a 8 figure salary job and would not mind at all to get a 7 figure salary for it. Just email me or gimme a call. 

  • VAP Photography

    Totally agree with you Bob. And the harder part for us pro photogs is educate our customers in learning all the hard work and knowledge hidden behind a great image. Especially, when the greatest photogs (hope to get there some day) make it look so easy to the rest of the mortals.

  • Slangitman

    No, it’s not just the editors, which I am.  Today, for instance, I had to cut 4 pieces of Occupy footage from around the country, including stuff from a local rally.  I received basically nothing, which I had minutes to cut before the show began.  It’s all a hodgepodge. . .and what’s affecting journalism more than anything is the fact that so many of the decision makers are aloof of what’s actually happening on the ground, and what needs to be done to relate it. . .and Why.

  • VAP Photography

    But quality was important time ago… Too bad we as race let this happen to ourselves. Sooner or later is gonna bite us in the arse.

    Oh wait! It´s already happening: programmed obsolescence in our electronic devices, furniture, clothing and all products… lower levels of education at our schools… unclean energy and factories polluting the ecosistem because cleaning the mess doesn’t give as much profit… hospitals and doctors busy in keeping us ill instead of dedicated to cure us because a cure for illness doesn’t pay the big companies…


    We pay for it with our credit cards. We let it happen and keep doing it every time.

  • VAP Photography

    Not so true Rob. More and more people is jobless around the world. For one big company hiring there are thousands of mom and pop companies laying off people they can’t afford to have working with them anymore because of the lack of profits and which are not portrayed in any big newspaper or news program. Governments are hiding the numbersall over the world because they don’t look good on the eyes of the voters. 

  • VAP Photography

    People doesn’t use their brains. That’s the problem. Always easier to watch the football and drink a beer instead. :(

  • Anonymous

    A key point that must be remembered is that a photojournalist is the closest person/thing we have to an objective view of events.  Amateurs or those with agendas can easily via (among other thins) focusing on things he/she wants to viewer to see, Photoshopping with impunity, intentionally failing to shoot certain aspects of event and providing false caption information provide the viewer with an image of something which may or may not have occurred as portrayed.  A professional is subject to editors and must establish a record of reliability or lose their paychecks.  But alas professional photographers and writers have this awful habit of eating every day and thus require payment for their services.

    The same trend is occurring in journalism as often unedited “citizen journalists” supply “content” which ranges from excellent to pure garbage.  The accuracy of what you see and read can only be “improved” by viewing countless sites, blogs publications, programs etc.  As a long time published and harsh critic of the so-called lamestream media, I welcome the numerous new sources and bemoan the fact that the photographers and journalists who are my clients will likely never again work in their chosen profession.

    In this new media don’t expect anyone with insight or a hint of objectivity to cover the obscure or boring city council meetings, the local zoning boards and the like.  Democracy is the weaker for it.

    Edward C. Greenberg 

  • Phil

    IN reporting news, quality should matter, unfortunately it now doesn’t. If you lack quality in reporting, you will lose your credibility and reputation, sort of like CNN.

  • Anonymous

    Nobody fact checks the citizen media and there are few fact checkers remaining at the lamestream media.  For you folks who actually care about language and grammar, you will note that reading just two or three pages of news “content” contained in any major newspaper will reveal several grammatical errors.  No one fact checks, reads or edits. People that used to perform those services wanted to get paid. Now somebody or typically something, Spellchecks.

    If you really care about such things, do not watch or purchase anything in any media which relies on the work product of people not even requesting the legal minimum wage. No one is allowed to work at a McDonalds “for free” even if he/she wanted to.  Ironically there is a bumper crop of volunteers for major media corporations of all political persuasions who are more than willing to be corporate slaves and oh yes, its all quite legal.

    Edward C. Greenberg

  • Allen H

    CNN as an organization traded journalism for entertainment quite some time ago. They are a news organization only to those too lazy to look for real journalism.

  • Felcro

    HellO-o, that’s already happening!

  • Kenneth Aston Jr

    Bob you get a +10 from me on this. I find this very upsetting that CNN is going to depend on the casual fauxtographer to provide imagery, how preposterous!

  • Nick

    Sad! This has been happening for years now. 

    The standard logic in the boardrooms of the media empires is…we are losing money, so we need to cut expenses so we have more money. That addresses the symptom, not the cause. If you continue to cut expenses every year, there will come a point at which there is nothing left to cut. A point at which your media empire is now just a small room of interns copying stuff off twitter and youtube. 

    Oh wait…

  • Anonymous

    It’s not just CNN getting “free” content. The internet in general encourages the general public to add content without payment. Most every social media outfit is using freely contributed information from users to make a buck. All the comments here are being given to CNN free for making some money.

  • Richard Ford

    True – but we live in a global society and for all the slobs that are like that there are people in developing countries who are not.  So in the future we hopefully won’t have “Countries” per se (and the friggin govts that go with). 

    But orgs or corps of the doers and get up and goers in this world.  That are liberated to enjoy life and succeed without having to carry the dead weight around with them because others have the same skin colour or were born on the same pile of dust.

  • Bob

    They should be getting rid of the talking heads and hiring more photographers. I think the pubic is tired of seeing a pretty people talking into the camera or guests arguing with each other for arguments sake. They should be out there making complete packages from the field about people. Don’t just show me footage. Tell me a good story that shows me why I should care. 

  • SteelToad

    Give Slangitman a cigar ! 
    If somebody is planning a story (you, know actually thinking about it ahead of time) they can tell the journalists, I need this, and this, and this, and that, all of which are the recipie for the story. Instead they take whatever happens to come along, throw it into the pot, and hope it churns into something interesting enough to generate a tweet.

  • SteelToad

    Oh but the talking heads are so pretty, all the pretty made up faces, and smiles, and twitter addresses, and .. SQUIRREL ….

  • Anonymous

    That’s wishful thinking. If only that would be so …