Chicago Tribune and Sun-Times Covers After the Stanley Cup Finals


After the Chicago Sun-Times laid off its entire staff of photographers at the end of last month, the newspaper’s editor sent out a memo stating that employees would be trained in using their smartphones to contribute photography (“iPhone photography basics,” it was called).

We may be starting to see the negative effects of having an army of staff iPhoneographers rather than photojournalists. The side-by-side comparison above shows what the Chicago Tribune and Chicago Sun-Times newspaper covers looked like on June 26th, 2013, two days after the Stanley Cup finals.

Both papers feature cover stories about the Chicago Blackhawks defeating the Boston Bruins to win their fifth NHL championship. Both featured photos were taken for their respective papers… but they’re quite different. Here’s a closer look at the two covers:



…and of the two photographs:


One of them looks like a photograph captured by a photojournalist, while the other looks like an iPhone snapshot. Why was the Sun-Times cover photo used when there were plenty of photographs floating around on the wires that could have been licensed? Perhaps it was done in protest.

“I miss the Sun-Times photographers. This is a disservice to your readers,” tweets Tribune photojournalist Brian Cassella.

A comparison of the newspaper covers the day before is also quite interesting [Update: see below]:



These are simply two cover comparisons that stand out as being “lacking” on the part of the Sun-Times. In general, the newspaper has still been doing a good job of featuring breaking news photographs prominently on its cover:

Chicago Tribune covers in recent weeks

Chicago Tribune covers in recent weeks

Chicago Sun-Times covers in recent weeks

Chicago Sun-Times covers in recent weeks

You can compare recent covers yourself over on CoverTimes (here and here).

(via Brian Cassella via Reddit)

Update: It turns out the June 25th cover comparison isn’t entirely accurate. The Sun-Times actually had a special wrap-around for that day’s paper:


The June 26th comparison (the one that started off this article) still stands.

  • Brad Snyder

    What an embarrassment. But hey, you make the bed you lie in.

  • Emil Nyström

    I feel sorry for their readers.

  • Jason Kessenich

    Ridiculous! I hope that other companies see what’s happening here and take a step back, and user their damn brains. Horrendous work.

  • Samcornwell

    Perhaps they should have sacked the headline writers instead.

  • bri

    wow. that is pathetic. that’s what ya get boys.

  • Lawrence DeVore

    The Sun-Times was always the runt of the Chicago newspaper family. They will be gone in two years.

  • Mantis

    Lots of sports fans will buy a paper like this just to keep or frame. If you’re a Blackhawks fan, which one are you going to buy?

  • Angelgreg

    What readers?

  • Terry Clark

    Absurd embarrassment to the people of Chicago.

  • Jeff

    Two years? This whole debacle sounds like a death rattle to me. I would bet the under on 2yrs man.

  • Ian

    I’m just surprised they haven’t outsourced the work to people overseas who can watch surveillance cams and take appropriate screen captures for 5 cents an hour…the quality might be a little better…

  • Goatman

    Just for accuracy, in It’s The Stanley Cup Final, not Finals, no plural on final. Should probably fix that for editorial accuracy.

  • Grandpa

    The only people outraged by this are photographers. Print media is dying on the vine. Ad sales for print are falling faster than online ad sales are increasing. Papers will probably be extinct within 20 years.

    In the meantime, photography/imaging is exploding on the internet. More people have access to quality cameras and photo editing software than ever before. More quality images are, by force of competition, being produced daily than ever before.

    Yet, you choose to bemoan the practical fiscal decision of a business that knows it is on the way out.

    Photojournalism is being redefined. Deal with it. Oh, wait, you are probably the same group that is fascinated by wet-plate photography because of its “authenticity”.

  • Michael Comeau

    So what you’re saying is, the Tribune is superior because it has the Tonal Contrast preset from Color Efex Pro?

  • pgb0517

    I just looked at the covers of both papers. I looked at the Sun-Times going back to the start of the year. Even before the layoffs, their front-page photo selection was horrible, boring, ugly, and bland. Lots of glorified mugshots of people in the news — closeups of faces frowning, smiling, talking, looking blankly at the camera. Not much good photography on the page at all. So while they had a photo staff, they sure weren’t doing anything with it on their front pages. The Tribune, however, had a good selection of fairly compelling, interesting photos that actually told stories. I don’t live up there, thank heaven, so I don’t know much about these papers. But if I were browsing a newsstand, I’d pick the Tribune every day based on good photos and headlines and overall design.

  • MS

    ahaha…Cup of Cheer? It looks like he’s laying that thing in a casket.

  • Niall

    Maybe..but in the ‘here and now’, a big game was on, and one paper got a good cover while the other got a joke cover photo. Media is about the current, not 20 years time.

    Couldn’t they have held on to one or two professional photographers? Strange decision by the Sun-Times.

  • Fullstop

    Sadly Grandpa is right on the money. Quality loses vs Quantity in this new age of photography.
    We live in an ever increasing DIY culture where price is a great equalizer.
    It’s adapt or die.
    Sure there will always be those willing to pay for professional level work, however it’s the masses below those that are choosing to go the cheaper route that are going to shape the new industry.
    Photography will end up going to the lowest bidder because everyone has a camera now and photo editing is a very simplistic process where the bare minimum will meet the requirements.
    Video on the other hand is a more intensive editing process when it comes to acquisition, workflow, export and upload. This is where the shift will occur in the artistic realm.

  • RedWing1

    lol. Someone from Toronto giving advice about the Stanley Cup Finals. That’s pretty funny.

  • Chris

    Could have been a handful of filters but that didn’t make it a better photo.

  • syafiqzailan .

    wonder if they frame it and put it on the wall at sun-times….this one is for wall of shame of course!

  • olafs_osh

    Well, why would people of Chicago be embarrassed about one of the many newspapers in the city they don’t even read?

  • syafiqzailan .

    i would frame it for wall of shame instead wall of fame

  • olafs_osh

    seriously, though – the Tribune’s image looks awful as well.

  • tron

    Still more cups than you. Good looking club you had this year (not serious). Way to blow that 3-1 series lead against Boston after backing into the playoffs.

  • Goatman

    again, it’s the Stanley Cup Final, and I’m not from Toronto.

  • mthouston

    In case anyone is interested, images you will not see in the Sun-Time, or any other publication that thinks anyone can shoot pictures.

  • Mantis

    That photo is meant for sports fans, not photography critics in the comment section of a blog. The average joe actually loves that look.

  • Mantis

    The filter doesn’t matter. The intended audience wasn’t photography critics, but sports fans.

  • Shutterspeedy

    Not sure I agree with the line, “Quality loses vs Quantity in this new age of photography.”

    Because budding photographers can shoot thousands of images without paying for film, they can improve must faster and cheaper and they would have 20 years ago. Advances in sensor technology contribute as well, but photographers at every level are producing better images than they used to.

  • Rob S

    The vast majority of print media sealed their own fate by first ignoring and then fighting the web in the late 90’s. Anyone with any kind of vision looked at what was happening with the internet and understood that there was an extreme need for news on the web. The TV guys got it because their product had always been electronic, fast and visual. The print guys didn’t because their idea of the 24 hour news cycle was printing it 24 hours after it was news.

    News papers were the original blogs with opinion pages and letters to the editor yet they were late to letting readers on their web sites. They understood the power of local advertising yet tried to block their content from search engines. They knew ads paid the bills yet tried to make their sites subscription as stupid rates. Like the Palestinians, print media never missed and opportunity to miss an opportunity.

    If anything the print folks should have been leading the way to turn their photographs into web page views. News print sucks compared to even the low res web images. But instead of taking their advantage – professional images – and using it as an advantage, most newspaper web sites dumbed down their images to “protect” their print publications. Stupid. They forgot that they were a media company, not a paper company. Doom on them.

  • Fullstop

    I am not referring to the skill sets that will be developed by accessibility to cameras and improving technology.

    I’m talking about those willing to pay for photography willingly sacrificing quality over quantity such as the Sun Times.

    It’s a supply and demand equation. There will be more photographers due to technology and lower entry point therefore there will be less demand.

    There will be those with superior quality who will stand out however they will be the creme of the crop types who will be hired by a select group willing to pay for quality.
    The rest of the masses will be happy with good enough.
    This isn’t changing.

  • Jimmy Alford

    Okay while I totally get why this article was written and I was on board the whole way, until the update. The update at the end basically said oops everything to this point is complete bunk, ruined all my warm fuzzy save-the-photogs feelings. Come on, if you’re going to trash them for using crap art, at least make sure they actually used bad art.

  • corrector

    Re-read the update.
    it specifies that the first comparison still stands

    the wrap around was just for one of the other comparisons later in the article.

  • Grandpa

    I wonder how many of you actually subscribe to a newspaper. I haven’t touched one in over 10 years. The premise of the newspaper is ancient history. If you didn’t convert yourself to digital media in the last decade, you get to suffer the consequences.

    How many of you bemoan the fact that you couldn’t get Milk Duds and Popcorn at Red Box or Netflix like you could when you used to go to BlockBuster? Very similar to bemoaning one paper’s decision to get rid of pro-photogs.

    Professional sports photographers will still be around and you can get access to their pictures almost instantaneously wherever you are. At a much higher quality than the crap pics that are printed on fishwrap.

    Tell me again how this is a bad thing?

  • Grandpa

    Neither. If I want a photograph of one of the moments of the playoffs, I’ll go find a high-res version, pay for a nice print and frame. Framed newspaper headlines are a thing of the past.

  • R O

    Yet the unique, online impression counts for local newspapers blow their TV competition out of the water.

  • Donald Giannatti

    It only matters to you if it matters to you.

    To the people who buy the paper, who don’t give a crap, it won’t matter.

    And while the other papers are doing a little ‘victory’ dance with out of work photographers as cheerleaders, they know the dirty little secret.

    Sun Times was first. Many will follow.

    I have no dog in the hunt and am not saying it is a good thing… I am saying it is the coming thing.

    So what do we do now?

    Kvetch? Whine? Get all high and mighty over an HDR versus a lackluster snap?


    That’ll help a lot.

  • Theresa Z

    They are getting what they paid for.

  • you_bet

    You better bet they and most other newspapers (print and digital) have already outsourced as much as they can to overseas workers. I work for a “local” newspaper whose entire art department and layout department was let go so that all of the work could be sent away. The print and online advertising for the local Mom & Pop stores is all produced in India and the layout is all produced elsewhere in the U.S. (Where salaries are, oddly, more expensive.) If you think that everything you see in your local paper (even if you read online only) is produced locally, think again.

  • Brutally Honest

    Lived in Chicago (almost) my whole life. The Sun Times always has been a trashy newspaper. Sorry to say…no one will notice. Move along now…

  • Darron Mark

    Even the wrap around image on the bottom of this article looks over contrasted, did they get rid of their picture desk editors as well..?

  • Jason


    I always loved the Tribune anyway.

  • pgb0517

    It’s a bad thing because: 1) Traditional newspapers and magazines had the business model to generate revenue and resources to be a well-staffed, 24-hour operation that could throw a team of writers, shooters and editors at a major event. 2) Traditional publishers were never necessarily known for big salaries, but in strong markets, journalists, photojournalists and other staff could earn decent pay. 3) Traditional publishers also had the resources to provide the right kind of gear to their teams, along with insurance, training, legal support, and other things that you might not consider important but many people do.

    I have no idea what you mean by “the premise of the newspaper is ancient history.” Do you mean that newsgathering, and that includes pictures, by professionals with training and experience is ancient history? Because the “everybody’s an editor” approach doesn’t fare any better than the “everybody’s a photographer” fallacy when it comes to actually getting facts straight.

    I also don’t know if you know — but you apparently don’t — how deteriorating the revenue model has been trying to maintain the resources I mentioned above. Those resources are required for real journalism to happen. The big problem is that everybody expects everything on the Web to be free. Go hire a staff based on that. I live in a market with a newspaper that I used to work for that has done as good a job as any at entering the Web world, but its revenue continues to slide.

    The next time there is a major crisis in your city, let’s see how good a job the bloggers and “citizen-journalists” really do at pinning down public officials, emergency responders, and law enforcement, and then doing a coherent, relevant, truthful, timely presentation that helps the public cope. I’ve never yet seen that work. In fact, in cases like the Boston Marathon bombings, the Webosphere failed miserably at getting its facts straight. Unfortunately, the pressure of the Instantosphere is also tempting real news organizations that should know better to get it first instead of getting it right. This trend has been long in the making. I don’t know if there is hope.

    Your comparison to Milk Duds and Netflix is so irrelevant as to not even deserve an analysis.

    So that great body of professional sports shooters that you think will be around: Who’s paying them, exactly? What revenue model supports them?

    You should realize that this trend in devaluing craft and professionalism will eventually devalue everyone and everything. Let’s all enjoy it together, I suppose.

  • pgb0517

    And the wrap-around wasn’t very good, either.

  • pgb0517

    Now that’s a photograph.

  • pgb0517

    No, it is actually a pretty good photograph. It does look oversharpened or something, with that black outline around the jersey.

  • pgb0517

    It’s fun to reply in snarky fashion these days when it comes to newspapers, but for the record, the S-T’s circulation, from the Wikipedia page, is:

    470,548 Daily
    268,413 Saturday
    406,094 Sunday

    I guess they have readers buried somewhere in those numbers.

    The sad thing is, even with circulation figures like those, management threw out its professional shooters. They didn’t even keep a token few. This was not only about money, it was about an evolving philosophy of what works in the market.

  • pgb0517

    You will pay for the print and frame. Will you also pay whatever the shooter or publisher wants for you to legally license a high-resolution copy of his photo? Or do you expect to just grab that for free off a Web site?

  • pgb0517

    You are absolutely right. At my last newspaper, consolidation was the word of the day. And eventually outsourcing some ad creation overseas.

    When consumers stop wanting to pay what something is worth, everybody suffers.