Ethics Matters: Chicago Sun-Times Lays Off Entire Photo Staff

By John Long

DURHAM, NC (June 3, 2013) – This past week, the NPPA Ethics Committee (John Long, retired Hartford Courant photographer and past president of NPPA , Peter Southwick, Associate Professor of Journalism, Boston University, Steve Raymer, former staff photographer National Geographic and now Professor of Journalism, Indiana University, and NPPA past president Sean Elliot, staff photographer, The Day, New London, CT) had been deeply involved in discussing whether the June 2013 National Geographic cover photograph of explorer James Cameron was a violation of accepted journalistic ethics and values. We will post a full blog on this issue alone in a few days.

However, what has taken precedence in our discussions is the firing of the entire photographic staff of the Chicago Sun-Times, including a Pulitzer Prize-winner, replacing them with reporters carrying iPhones. This sent shock waves through the profession. We had an explosion of emails on the value of quality photojournalism (i.e.: National Geographic) and its value in the face of the possible collapse of our profession.

Is the demise of a staff of photojournalists an ethical issue? Usually we deal with lying and the other aspects of NPPA's Code of Ethics, but we all felt (very deeply) that this is probably one of the most basic ethical issues we face today. It is the ethics of survival; the survival of our profession and the survival of our American way of life itself in that a free society cannot exist without access to accurate information.

The NPPA Ethics Committee blog attempts to compile (in edited form) what we have written as a group in the past few days. Read it online here.