The sky is not falling: Chicago Sun-Times lays off video staff

By Contributing Editor Chuck Fadely:

News that the Chicago Sun-Times laid off its two video staffers flashed across journalists’ social media feeds this week with alarm.

“Two video producers have been laid off as part of our reorganization after the sale of suburban titles to the Tribune. We will continue to produce video content and continue to focus on building the Sun Times Network and reinvesting in the iconic Chicago Sun-Times Newspaper,” parent company Wrapports LLC said in a statement to Jim Romenesko.

This is the same Sun-Times that laid off its entire photo staff of 28 in 2013, saying that they were going to retool for video. “The Sun-Times business is changing rapidly and our audiences are consistently seeking more video content with their news,” they said at the time.  But now they’re reorganizing again, and video seems to be a lower priority.

Dustin Park was laid off in January and Peter Holderness was cut Feb. 3rd. The Sun-Times crew, small as it was, produced a lot of video, including this fun look at election day by Peter Holderness:

Chicago Sun-Times management has been down this road before. Timothy Knight, the CEO of Sun-Times parent company Wrapports LLC, was the publisher of Newsday back in 2008, when he laid off their photo staff.

However, the elimination of the Sun-Times video staff is not indicative of the state of video in the U.S. newspaper industry. Other newspapers in the U.S. continue to invest heavily in video, even while cutting back in other parts of the newsroom. The New York Times has been consistently expanding their video offerings and continues to hire both newsroom and backend staff for their video operation. The Wall Street Journal and USA Today are both hiring video producers. McClatchy Newspapers, the third-largest newspaper chain in the U.S., and parent company for the Miami Herald, the Kansas City Star, the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, and two dozen other dailies, is ramping up a national video operation and hiring staff. The Cincinnati Enquirer just built a video studio with switchers and multiple cameras.

So even though the U.S. newspaper industry continues to contract in general, video is still in the growth phase. The Sun-Times layoffs are just an indication of management’s philosophy at that paper that goes against the grain of industry thinking.

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