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Chicago Sun-Times lays off entire photography department

(Tribune) – The Chicago Sun-Times laid off its entire staff of photographers Thursday and plans to use freelance photographers and reporters to shoot photos and video, the newspaper said.

A total of 28 full-time staffers received the news at a morning meeting, according to sources familiar with the situation.

The Sun-Times released a statement connecting the move to the increasing importance of video in news reporting, but the organization also is not profitable currently, according to a knowledgeable source who was not authorized to speak publicly.

“The Sun-Times business is changing rapidly and our audiences are consistently seeking more video content with their news,” the newspaper said in its statement.

“We have made great progress in meeting this demand and are focused on bolstering our reporting capabilities with video and other multimedia elements. The Chicago Sun-Times continues to evolve with our digitally savvy customers, and as a result, we have had to restructure the way we manage multimedia, including photography, across the network.”

Sun-Times Media Group, which publishes 39 suburban daily and weekly publications in addition to its flagship paper, is preparing to supplement its freelance staff with reporters to shoot more video and photos, sources said.

Among those laid off was longtime Sun-Times photographer John H. White, who won a Pulitzer Prize for feature photography in 1982.

The Chicago Newspaper Guild, which represents 20 of the 28 photographers let go, issued a statement Thursday vowing to exert pressure on the Sun-Times to reverse course.

Thursday’s cutting of the photo department is part of the effort to get the Sun-Times into the black, sources said.