Portions of this column were originally written for the March 2015 edition of News Photographer Magazine.
Mark Loundy is a media producer and consultant based in San Jose, California. Full bio.
The opinions in this article are those of the author alone and do not necessarily represent the official views of the National Press Photographers Association.
March 2015, Volume 135
By Mark Loundy
"On the pinnacle of success man does not stand firm long."
The pinnacle of sports photography employment disintegrated just before the Super Bowl when Sports Illustrated eliminated the position of staff photographer.
As much as I, personally, value and respect the skills and experience of the SI staffers, they had become expendable. Sure, some professional photographers might be able to see a drop in quality of SI images — but probably not.There are lots of supremely talented photographers who will be able to maintain the magazine's visual standards on a freelance basis — some of them are the former staffers themselves.
So what practical reason did SI have to retain a staff? Surely, there was no business reason. Those numbers were crunched decades ago. Only the last vestiges of editorial power at Time, Inc. kept them on the masthead. With the spinoff of the magazine division (along with a bunch of debt,) that power evaporated.
CBS Moneywatch quoted SI spokesman Scott Novak spewing the depth of corporate doublespeak saying, "It was a strategic decision to approach photography in a bold new way that will give us access to more resources around the world and to maintain the standard of quality that Sports Illustrated fans are used to." I wonder if Novak had to anesthetize himself before writing that?
ASMP Executive Director and former photo chief for National Geographic, Tom Kennedy said, "Committed photographers deserve the same loyalty that they have historically provided to Sports Illustrated."
The truth is that readers do not see photography the way photographers do. SI will still be SI. Readers will not see a diminished pictorial quality. Only we fellow members of the profession will mourn. The most surprising thing about this is that it took this long to happen.
All editorial staffers need to develop a deeper understanding of their value to the businesses that write their paychecks. For local newspapers, that value transcends the ability to create an engaging image and encompasses a deep engagement in their community. It is that engagement that generates loyalty to a newsroom and makes it a "must-read."
Likewise, no editorial staffer can afford to be disengaged from the business realities of their employer. The days of blithe ignorance are over. Editorial staffers need to be as flexible and wide-ranging in their skill set as needed.
As for Sports Illustrated, there will not be a nanosecond of regret in the corner offices of Time, Inc.
(Portions of this column appeared in a January post on Facebook.)
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