That’s not to say the Sun-Times handled this particular transition well, because it clearly didn’t. Jeff Jarvis says the paper was both right and wrong — right in the sense that there are more photographers and potentially newsworthy photos available everywhere, since everyone has a powerful camera in their pocket, but wrong in the way they handled the change. Instead of letting them all go, he says they should have redefined the job so that photographers would become curators of crowdsourced photos as well as creators.
It would be nice to think the Sun-Times — or any other newspaper — could convince its existing photographers to do that. And maybe some will be able to. But many professional photo-journalists would find that transition difficult if not impossible, just as many professional journalists of all kinds find it hard to admit that at least some aspects of what we call journalism can now be practiced by anyone with a functioning brain-stem, a sense of curiosity and the luck to be close to a breaking news event.
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It is interesting to note that in other countries, particular the UK, it is the norm for some newspapers to have small photo staffs and use freelancers and agencies for most of their photos. I discovered this during a consult some years ago at The Times of London. The paper had a very robust and active photo desk with a considerable budget but only a few staff who commissioned, licensed and managed photo orders.