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What the Chicago Sun-Times Photographer Layoffs Mean for Marketing

3263766842_078f0fe4e4_mThere were plenty of reasons for Yahoo.com to be in the news on May 20th. The company had just purchased Tumblr, a popular blogging platform, and as Gigaom.com reported, Yahoo also expanded its Flickr (photography) platform and expanded into a new New York office. However, almost all of this was overshadowed to some extent by a comment that Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer made in passing. In regards to ending the Flickr Pro service, which had offered paying users more storage space, Mayer said, “There’s no such thing as Flickr Pro today because [with so many people taking photographs] there’s really no such thing as professional photographers anymore.” Needless to say, there was much scoffing and people were confused as to how such an intelligent woman could say such a foolhardy thing.

Oddly, however, less than a month later, it appears that the Chicago Sun-Times took Mayer at her word.

On May 30, 2013, the Sun-Times announced that it was firing all of its photographers. Further baffling the world, the Sun-times said that in the absence of professional photographers, the paper was going to teach journalists how to snap photos with smart phones.

Needless to say, there is a lot about this that concerns us. Here are just a few points that are on our minds in the wake of this news.

Where photography goes, will creative work follow?

Professional photography offers value to any project in which it is used. Whether it is a booth graphic, a print ad, or an image accompanying a news release, a professionally composed and retouched photo brings a higher level of quality to the project as a whole. Will companies lose track of that kind of value in the face of smartphone photography that can, on the front end, seem like it’s cheaper and easier to execute? If creative work becomes undervalued, what kind of message will that send to customers? If you don’t care enough about your company’s image to present a highly professional ad or brochure, what will your customers garner from that information? The story may not be pretty.

Will fine skills be undervalued in general?

If the perception grows that professional photography can be replaced by amateur photographers with smartphones, what other finer skills are in danger? Just as anyone can take a photograph and post it to Flickr, anybody can write a thought and publish it to a blog site. Does that mean there are no longer any “professional” writers?

Where is the passion?

It wasn’t so long ago that real passion existed in the worlds of marketing and journalism. Companies wanted their brands and products to be shown off in ads and other materials. If nobody cares anymore, what’s to prevent journalism and marketing from simply disappearing? If anyone can write, if anyone can capture images, and if everyone agrees anything is as good as professional quality art, where does the value of truly creative work go? How can it sustain itself?

At our agency,we still are passionate about producing high quality work. It’s part of our work ethic and it’s part of our promise to our clients. Whether it’s a short press release or a large catalog, we like to make sure that our writing, design, and photography are as high quality as possible. We still appreciate high-quality printing. These things still matter.

We shudder to think we may be coming to an era when we are in the minority.

Surely we are not there yet. Are we?

Image Credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/modashell/3263766842/ via Creative Commons

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One comment on “What the Chicago Sun-Times Photographer Layoffs Mean for Marketing

  1. Well said. Here is my take on the CST precedent and what it means for the future of photojournalism, vis-a-vis a ‘possible-past’ hypothetical story.
    http://zhouxingyu.wordpress.com/2013/06/06/history-on-film/

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