Within the last couple of weeks the Chicago Sun-Times laid off its entire photo staff. A move that made waves for some and was predictable for others. It’s no secret that the face of journalism is changing. We live in an increasingly digital world. The Chicago Sun-Times reportedly made this drastic move to focus on improving reporting capabilities with video and other multimedia elements
. Yet while they’re relying on these changes to make them more relevant, other changes are coming to steal their thunder, perhaps before it can even get started.
The Chicago-Sun Times thinks that journalists with iPhones can do better. I agree that it’s important to be able to do a variety of things in a communications job, and that certain types of businesses can get by on this model, but I still have doubts as to whether this can ever fully replace specialization in the newsroom. A parallel can be drawn between the Chicago-Sun Times, who think photographers aren’t important, and certain politicians, who think reporters aren’t important
. Michelle Bachmann recently announced by online video that she wouldn’t be seeking a fifth Congressional term. Similarly, Anthony Weiner took the same approach a week earlier announcing his mayoral bid. Before either of these two did that, Hilary Clinton made an endorsement of gay marriage via web video. No reporter perspective, no interruptions for questions, no intrusion whatsoever.
These kinds of instances point to reporters’ jobs being in jeopardy still too. Switching to digital formats hasn’t alleviated that, nor have paywalls. In particular, at risk are some of these same journalists that are supposed to help improve digital communications in the newsroom. They are getting snatched up by or voluntarily moving to startup companies in the digital media sphere
. Twitter plucked Mark Luckie from the Washington Post to become its manager of journalism and news, while people like Anthony De Rosa announce their departure from companies like Reuters to join startups like Circa, a mobile-focused app for breaking news. The interesting thing about this trend, is that the efforts of newsrooms like the Chicago-Sun Times could backfire under these type of threats. Right as they’re moving towards more digitally sustainable models, the very people they are counting on to help with that transition are leaving or getting snatched up. Also, those that still think that reporters’ jobs are safe find themselves not entirely correct.
There are those that bypass the media to control their message. If that were to become an increasing trend, expanding to companies and others acting alone and not in conjunction with media to spread their message, it could make journalists feel just as irrelevant as news photographers are feeling in the wake of the recent Chicago-Sun Times layoff. As I mentioned there are also those who are digitally savvy reporters, and they’re getting snatched up by digital media startups. This definitely clogs up any plans to use these same reporters to advance the efforts of their current newsrooms. It makes newsrooms look like they’re the ones who are late to the party. As one of the last to embrace digital they face a variety of threats standing in the way of making that happen. How or if they can overcome these threats is anyone’s guess. The times they are a changin’ and newsrooms need to figure out how to keep up before it really becomes too late.