Chicago Sun-Times Photographers React and Respond to Being Laid Off


When the Chicago Sun-Times unexpectedly laid off its entire team of photojournalists last week, Al Podgorski was one of the photographers hearing the bad news at the meeting. Having worked for the paper since 1984, Podgorski’s image-making instincts kicked in, and he shot the photograph above showing his colleagues learning that they were being laid off.

The photographer in the center of the frame is John H. White, the renowned photojournalist who joined the Sun-Times in 1978 and won a Pulitzer Prize in 1982.

In a post published to his Facebook page, Podgorski writes,

The Chicago Sun-Times has laid off its entire photography staff, and plans to use freelance photographers and reporters to shoot photos and video going forward, the newspaper said. A total of 28 full-time staffers received the news Thursday morning at a meeting held at the Sun-Times offices in Chicago, according to sources familiar with the situation. The layoffs are effective immediately. Included was John H. White , Pulitzer Prize winner and mentor to so many journalists , photographers and more…. and my hero.

Podgorski captured some other photos of the meeting showing group pictures, hugs, and heavy hearts:





Shortly after the layoffs, the Chicago Tribune visited the Billy Goat Tavern in Chicago to gather reactions from laid off Sun-Times photographers:

CNN’s Howard Kurtz also caught up with John H. White to hear his thoughts about what the layoffs mean for the news industry:

(via Gawker and ISO 1200)

Image credits: Photographs by Al Podgorski and used with permission

  • xx

    same w magazines. forget it.

  • eoritouigjlkjvldkjgoeigjao

    funny but bad timing.

  • BarkingGhost

    Is Marissa Mayer running this newspaper?

  • Tzctplus -

    Me,me,me. This is not about what you do or wish to do, this is about what the general public as a whole is doing, and they are speaking with their hard earned cash in hand, not with wishful thinking.

    I don’t really care about how photography for news organizations is provided. What I am trying to explain isn’t *my* way. It is *the* way dictated by technological advances and economics. I chose to accept this reality and move on.

    Technological and economics changes are disruptive and may be damaging to some, we know why Luddites arose, this opposition is simply more of that same tired old horse of trying to protect jobs that circumstances are making uneconomical to provide, but at this point in human history to keep wishing they weren’t happening is frankly uninformed.

    And yes, we may need to pick up the social cost bill, which is why we should have a fair safety net .

  • Kyle Clements

    “how many people complaining about this actually spend money on print media?”

    But why would anyone bother to print out a news website?

  • Kyle Clements

    I agree with the first half of your comment, but not the last paragraph. A professional doesn’t take technically better pictures than an amateur. When it comes to fine print photography, anyone with enough time and memory card space can eventually take an outstanding photo.

    What a professional brings to the table is consistency.

    Give every table at a wedding a disposable camera for candid shots, and you’ll get a handful that are really damn good shots, but it’s more or less random. With a professional, you get the peace of mind of knowing that you *will* have a collection of good shots, hitting each of the important moments.

  • Tzctplus -

    You don’t need high quality for most photojournalism, you need immediacy.

    As for consistency, a swarm of nonprofessional people may be able to offer reasonable consistency, that is the problem of the pros: the competition isn’t just another guy with a camera, it is a thousand headed beast called Joe Public.

  • Tzctplus -

    I used the monkey scenario as a parable. The reality is that people with a camera phone are not clicking randomly, but capturing imagery that will interest other people like themselves.

  • dave W

    So? All you have to do is look at CNN’s iReports to see the “quality” of crowd-sourced journalism. It’s spotty at best on the “soft” stories and downright terrible for coverage of anything serious.

  • Vic Hol

    The digital/film argument does not enter into it. Photojournalists use digital cameras. Just because someone has the ability to possess a digital camera does NOT make them a photographer. Do they know how to get proper exposure? Do they know how to compose a shot so that it is compelling and thus sells newspapers? They might get lucky once and a while, but I can’t wait until one of the reporters completely blows a piece because they blew out a shot or composed the most boring photo in the world. I also think this is really unfair to the writers actually. So now they are not only expected to do what they were hired to do, they are expected to do someone else’s job as well. Idiocy.

  • Vic Hol

    Again, it’s not the tools!!

  • Vic Hol

    You do make a point. The customers should be demanding quality. Quality in writing and quality in photos. If you buy this garbage then it is only you who are to blame for it.

  • Joe

    But no professional organization can not should rely on that for their stories. If something big happens and none of the images you have access to quite showcase what happened then you’re having to explain why. The whole of having skilled, passionate person dedicated to that task is that you KNOW you’ll get images that work when you need them. This is about more than just getting images that look good, it’s about being sure you have images that tell the story as comprehensively as possible.

  • Chris

    This isnt about print tho since this is a milestone on a road that appears to be headed towards photojournalism-as-a-whole taking this same course.