How Can They Fire the Photographers? It’s Easy

Posted on | September 4, 2013 | No Comments

Reflec­tions of a Newsosaur


By Alan D. Mutter

Like many oth­ers, I was dis­tressed to learn that the Chicago Sun-Times fired all 28 mem­bers of its photo staff, as the casu­al­ties include such cher­ished for­mer col­leagues as the Pulitzer-winning John H. White.

How can they do that?” asked a num­ber of jour­nal­ists, friends and read­ers who called or wrote to express their out­rage. “Yes, it’s awful,” I agreed. “But, actu­ally, it’s easy.” Here’s why:

Notwith­stand­ing my pro­found per­sonal respect for pho­to­jour­nal­ism and pho­to­jour­nal­ists, the fact is that rel­a­tively cheap, reli­able and easy-to-use tech­nolo­gies like smart­phones, Pho­to­shop and Insta­gram make it pos­si­ble for any­one, any­where, any­time to shoot, sweeten and share a pic­ture when­ever the impulse strikes.

The explo­sion in citizen-generated images has been, well, explo­sive. The num­ber of pho­tos pub­lished to the web is run­ning this year at 530 mil­lion per day, or more than a 10,000% increase over the 5 mil­lion pic­tures put online each day when the iPhone debuted in 2007, accord­ing to Mary Meeker, a part­ner at the KPCB, a lead­ing Sil­i­con Val­ley ven­ture firm. It is impor­tant to note that the chart below illus­trates traf­fic at only Face­book, Flckr, Insta­gram and Snapchat. Plenty more images are turn­ing up in lots more places.

It’s not just pho­tos. YouTube reports that 100 hours of new video are uploaded every minute, as com­pared with 10 hours of new video per minute back in 2007. That, of course, is a ten­fold increase.

Even those who dozed through Econ 101 should know that ris­ing sup­plies reduce the price that con­sumers are will­ing to pay for every­thing from apps to zuc­chini. For those who snoozed a bit too much, here’s what you would have heard:

When a mar­ket­place is flooded with a par­tic­u­lar prod­uct or ser­vice, the pri­mary fac­tor deter­min­ing the value of the item in ques­tion is how much of it is avail­able.  Econ­o­mists call this phe­nom­e­non “com­modi­ti­za­tion” and the affected goods and ser­vices are called “com­modi­ties.” Example:

Because one bushel of wheat is as good as another (the fancy word for this is “fun­gi­ble”), the only mat­ter left to decide in the fast and furi­ous action at the Chicago Board of Trade is how much a bushel is worth at a par­tic­u­lar point in time.  When wheat is in short sup­ply, prices rise.  When there is a sur­feit of wheat, prices fall.

Read more here


Alan D. Mut­ter is per­haps the only CEO in Sil­i­con Val­ley who knows how to set type one let­ter at a time. Mut­ter began his career as a news­pa­per colum­nist and edi­tor at the Chicago Daily News and later rose to City Edi­tor of the Chicago Sun-Times. In 1984, he became No. 2 edi­tor of the San Fran­cisco Chron­i­cle. He left the news­pa­per busi­ness in 1988 to join Inter­Me­dia Part­ners, a start-up that became one of the largest cable-TV com­pa­nies in the U.S. Mut­ter was the COO of Inter­Me­dia when he moved to Sil­i­con Val­ley in 1996 to join the first of the three start-up com­pa­nies he led as CEO. The com­pa­nies he headed were a pio­neer­ing Inter­net ser­vice provider and two enterprise-software com­pa­nies. Mut­ter now is a con­sul­tant spe­cial­iz­ing in cor­po­rate ini­tia­tives and new media ven­tures involv­ing jour­nal­ism and tech­nol­ogy. He ordi­nar­ily does not write about clients or sub­jects that will affect their inter­ests. In the rare event he does, this will be fully dis­closed. Mut­ter also is on the adjunct fac­ulty of the Grad­u­ate School of Jour­nal­ism at the Uni­ver­sity of Cal­i­for­nia at Berkeley.



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