Chicago Sun-Times Now Selling the ‘One-of-a-Kind’ Photos Taken by Fired Photogs

suntimesselling1In a move that is completely legal and yet already has some people wondering just how much bad press the Chicago Sun-Times is looking to absorb, the beleaguered newspaper is putting the ‘striking, one-of-a-kind photos’ in its archive up for sale… you know, photos taken by the photojournalists the paper sacked in May of this year.

The advertisement appeared in today’s paper and was pointed out by journalist Jim Romenesko on his blog, where he also got former Sun-Times photographer Rob Hart to comment on the development.

Hart, for his part, was surprisingly nonchalant about the whole thing. “They trusted me to go out in the community and find great stories and compelling images that are worth something and I can’t fault them for wanting the world to see our images,” said Hart. “John H. White taught us to be like the lightning bug and never let anyone contain our light. We don’t take photos to put them in a box.”

This comparison of the Chicago Sun-Times and Tribune front pages after the Stanley Cup illustrates just how much you lose when you replace your photojournalists with iPhone photography lessons...

This comparison of the Chicago Sun-Times and Tribune front pages after the Stanley Cup illustrates just how much you lose when you replace your photojournalists with iPhone photography lessons…

The photographic community at large, however, sees this as adding insult to injury. First you lay off your entire photo staff, and then you begin selling the photos those same photographers took while in your employ, admitting that they are ‘striking’ and ‘one-of-a-kind’? We’ll let you find the correct adjective to describe this one.

The Chicago Newspaper Guild — who told Romenesko “it’s a shame that these archives aren’t getting any recent additions since there are no longer any photojournalists on staff,” — is currently trying to force the Sun-Times to reinstate its photographers.

But even if they manage to legally force the newspaper’s hand, it seems not everybody will want to go back. “It’s been almost 5 months since I’ve had to say ‘I’m sorry we’re doing the best with what we have,’ everyday,” Hart tells Romenesko. “So thanks Michael Ferro!”

(via The Click)

  • Paul Frederiksen

    This isn’t exactly unexpected. The paper likely owns the photos. It’s completely within their right. They do need revenue streams.

  • Banan Tarr

    Did you look through the galleries they have? I didn’t find anything striking or one-of-a-kind and I looked pretty hard…

  • Wolfgang_Zimmerman

    Yes, but, the irony.

  • Dave Reynolds

    This is a non-issue. The photographers knew they gave up their rights. Stop trying to manufacture controversy where there isn’t any. It’s not ironic either.

  • ZTN

    This is silly. If a car company lays off its assembly line workers, are they supposed to take the already produced cars to the dump? These photographers were employees. What they produced in that employ is the property of their employer. The idea that they have some sort of special claim over any other employee in the same situation is ridiculous.

  • hdboy

    Over the years, not all newspapers have required photographers to give up their copyrights. Many have, but I never personally worked for a newspaper that did this, and never would.

  • Paul Frederiksen

    I really don’t see any irony here.

  • Ian

    I sure hope the Stanley Cup photo along with their other striking, one-of-a-kind photos like it are for sale ;)

  • Nancy Newman

    Bottom line is that a newspaper needs photojournalists, journalists, editors, copy editors, pressmen, IT and web specialists, graphic artists, and a host of other critical jobs. Photojournalists are the eyes, ears and heart of the 4th Estate. The Chicago Sun-times got rid of it’s heart, and in selling the images, profiting off of the old arteries that still remain. Yes, within their rights, but without a photo staff, soon there won’t be anything of quality left. Just the shell of what was once part of the backbone of our democracy.

  • Mantis

    So what? There’s is nothing here to be upset about.

  • katiecurrid

    Wow, that Hart is a class act. Could’ve easily dug him one, but his quotes show that he’s staying above it all.

  • missd

    This is silly. It was never about the quality of the photographs.

  • PJHoggers

    At least the (expletive deleted) idiots that sacked the photographers will learn their lesson… with no more great shots going into the archive then they will have nothing left to sell… another case of a stupidly short sighted publisher…Why don’t these guys realise that good photography sells a publication regardless of whether it is online or print? Sure I understand them selling archive images but not making anymore…Well thats putting your product out of business isn’t it… what (expletive deleted)’s they are…

  • Rob Hart

    Thanks for covering our story. We all worked so hard over the years and decades I hope it shows that great visuals are still valued. I’m sure glad we have one newspaper in town that’s doing amazing visual journalism.

  • Stormin

    next up, Souls for Sale, lightly used, dirt cheap…

  • David Liang

    The photographers haven’t made an issue that’s been noted, and the one who did respond didn’t have an issue with it.
    The point of this article is merely trying to illustrate the lack of decency the Sun-Times has towards it’s former employees. They are well within their right to sell so no one’s making that the issue here.

  • greenarcher02

    While it is in their right, it’s still really a douchebag move for them.

  • harumph

    Really? I found some excellent photos.

  • Dave Reynolds

    Why is it a lack of decency (or a douche bag move according to greenarcher02)?

    Suppose Newspaper B sells prints and licenses commercial rights to images it owns from photographers it employs. Several months later, Newspaper B fires all their photographers and continues to sell prints and commercial rights.
    Newspaper A has the commercial rights to the photographs it owns from the photographers it employs. It fires the photographers and later begins selling prints.

    The only difference between A and B is the sequence in which identical events occurred. There is no moral difference between the sequence of events at Paper A and at Paper B. Both are legal and both involve photographers who willingly assigned their rights to the paper in exchange for getting paid to do what they love.

    Any photographer from the Chicago S-T who feels ripped off most likely wasn’t fully reconciled to exchanging their rights in exchange for employment in the first place. Any photographer browsing Peta Pixel who feels ripped off vicariously for the CS-T photogs similarly hasn’t reconciled themselves to the commercial realities of photography.

  • Dave Reynolds

    See my response to David Liang.

  • Eponymous_Jones

    This is a ridiculous article. Good job.

  • David Vaughn

    That’s not the argument. It’s more about the principles.

    The way I see it, the Sun-Times is basically admitting that the staff photographers were awesome, but they didn’t really give enough of a damn about the high quality…because they got rid of it.

    It’s like they’re flipping the bird to the readers. “We can produce a mediocre product and you sheep will still buy our paper.”

    In the end it’s we, the readers, who suffer…and they don’t care.

    This is the message I’m getting from all this. Maybe I’m way off base.

  • dawndawnb

    What? Not getting enough “one of a kind” iPhone photos?

  • Spongebob Nopants

    It is a dick move and they deserve bad press for it. It makes them look callous which is never good for a newspaper.
    They could have easily mitigated the existing bad impression they have already made by offering the photographers a percentage of the revenue. But they didn’t for the sole reason that they didn’t have to.
    The newspaper has the right to hire or fire whoever they want and the photographers do NOT have a god given right to a job. But it’s still made a crappy impression with people and lowered the percieved value of the newspaper.

  • greenarcher02

    Not really ripped off.. but just a bummer. Take this train of thought for example: “We just got fired then suddenly they’re selling our work because. It clearly had value. Why did we get fired in the first place?”

    But we all know it was for cost-cutting. And those photographers could probably go back anyway as freelance photographers. I just feel bummed about the whole thing.

    And I do hope the photographers are properly credited, at least, and not just have “by Chicago Sun-Times” when selling them…

  • Eldri

    That’s funny! Are you dumb, deaf and blind? Cause most people with a brain can see the irony of what they have done.

  • Daniel Walldorf

    It might seem kind of not nice but.. What’s the point of this article?
    Like, I’m a programmer and is my company douche baggy if they keep on selling the program I contributed to if they fire me somewhen? This is business. This newspaper might be a douche bag for firing all their photographers but they own the rights to this photographs and they payed for it. So why not make money from it?

  • Godber

    So if your employer makes you and all your fellow programmers redundant instead asking the general public to send in their efforts and then praise your work you wouldn’t find it a bit bizarre ?

    The point of this and other similar articles is on one hand the management are saying we don’t need you anymore as anybody can do your job and then saying you did an awesome job and produced one of a kind images.

    It will be interesting to learn the percentage split of prints bought from before and after the lay offs.

  • Mustafa

    well ist capitalism americans tend to praise.
    change your own behavior.. then you can complain.

  • Tony Sleep

    From the comments, a lot of people don’t care, can’t see any difference between these images and crowdsourced snaps, aren’t going to buy from the archive, and would cheerfully eat soylent green if the price was low enough. Writers are on the same slope, replaced by interns, advertorial, lobbyists and churnalism. Soon newspapers will have entirely destroyed any reason they had to exist, and we all exist in a limitless sea of information without context, provenance or accountability, where quality and meaning is whatever you want it to be. Such is progress.

  • Banan Tarr

    I guess I only checked a few galleries but what I saw was basically: iPhone shots of teh Stanley Cup celebrations, complete with motion blur, animal shots from the local zoo that any old tourist could’ve taken, skyline shots that looked pretty amateurish… etc

  • J. Dennis Thomas

    “a limitless sea of information without context, provenance or accountability, where quality and meaning is whatever you want it to be. ”

    Sounds exactly like internet.

  • GreenMtns

    Would only consider purchasing these photos IF the photographers the Chicago Sun Times “eliminated” would receive a portion of the revenue generated from the sale of their photos. But then, as we all know, business is NOT FAIR and they gave up all rights when they were shooting for CST.

    If I subscribed to the Chicago Sun Times I would immediately cancel my subscription simply based on the fact that these (unfortunately legal) unethical tactics are rubbing more salt into some very nasty wounds. Perhaps that was their intent?????

  • Rabi Abonour

    In today’s industry, saying “I’m not going to work for a newspaper that keeps the rights to my photos” is just a long way of saying “I’m not going to work for a newspaper.”

  • Rabi Abonour

    Banan’s referring to the post-layoff photos, not the photos for sale.

  • pulykamell

    Yeah, not surprising, as the Sun-Times does own the photos. At any rate, I had a subscription for the last 10 years and I don’t any more as of June. Business is business, but this is one business I won’t be supporting anymore. (Not that they needed my piddly subscription fee.)

  • Tony Sleep

    You got it in one!

  • Dave

    Not much one can do about it, as the photographers where paid to do a job. It’s Sad but if they are good photographers they won’t have any problem in finding work.

  • Brett I

    So what you are saying is that every photo is the exatctly same and mass produced.