chicago sun-times

“Telling The Story” podcast guests on: changes in journalism

I am on vacation — and out of commission — for the next two weeks, so I figured I would use my usual Wednesday space to put together some of the stronger exchanges and sound bites from the first six episodes of the “Telling The Story” podcast.

Next week, I will post the highlights on the topic of advice for young journalists and storytellers. This week, here are three segments on the changing landscape of journalism, which is a frequent topic here on the blog:


“We can be those outsiders, telling a story that’s important”: Jon Shirek was my first guest on the “Telling The Story” podcast, and he remains a storyteller and co-worker who I greatly admire. In this segment, Shirek talks about how storytelling has changed in the past three decades — and how, in his words, we are still “outsiders on behalf of outsiders.”

CLICK HERE for the full podcast.


“[The iPhone] does have a role in what we do”: In the aftermath of the Chicago Sun-Times’ decision to fire its photography staff, I called up veteran Indianapolis Star photojournalist Matt Detrich for an honest and insightful discussion of the future of newspaper photography. Detrich spoke mostly of his disappointment in the Sun-Times’ decision, but in this exchange, he did offer some positive words about the potential for the iPhone camera.

CLICK HERE for the full podcast.


3 GREAT STORIES: Best of 2013 (so far), written edition

Every week, I will shine the spotlight on some of the best storytelling in the business and offer my comments. “3 Great Stories of the Week” will post every Monday at 8 AM.

I am on vacation — and out of commission — for the next two weeks, so I figured I would use those weeks to post “Best Of” editions of my 3 Great Stories segment.

I will post my three favorite audio/video stories of the year so far next week. This week, without further ado, my three favorite written pieces from January through June (although, it seems, they were all written in April), along with what I wrote about them back then, with minor edits for clarity:

Yearning for the Golden Age in Crisis Coverage … That Never Existed (4/25/13, Sabato’s Crystal Ball): Larry Sabato is the director for the center of politics at the University of Virginia.

The man can also craft a good Tweet.

He got my attention in April when he Tweeted this one-liner: “Think coverage of Boston bombing was bad? JFK assassination coverage was worse.”

That line provides the premise, and Sabato’s article delivers.

The doctor, most known for predicting election results, goes into detail about the CBS broadcast after President Kennedy’s assassination; he documents the misinformation CBS and Walter Cronkite reported as well as the general behind-the-scenes madness. It’s an educational read for those who long for the good ol’ days of news coverage.


Newspaper photographers, and how the Sun-Times, iPhones, & Internet relate

An interesting discussion took place on Twitter after I posted my most recent podcast.

I interviewed Matt Detrich, a staff photographer for 15 years with the Indianapolis Star, about the role of traditional photography in the changing newspaper landscape. The podcast seemed especially relevant since, a few weeks earlier, the Chicago Sun-Times fired all of its photographers. Newspaper officials will instead rely on freelancers to cover major events and reporters to shoot photos and video with their phones.

Said Detrich, among other things: “I really can’t wrap my head about why they would dismantle one whole department … and such a special department for a newspaper.”

A few days later, Tom Spalding — a former Indy Star employee and current board member at Indy Social Media, a social media web site — Tweeted this:

Fourteen minutes later, Spalding’s fellow Indy Social Media board member Chris Theisen responded with this:

That led to the following exchange between Detrich, Thiesen, and Spalding:

My response to each of these Tweets? I agree.


PODCAST EPISODE #4: Matt Detrich, staff photographer, Indy Star


Last month, a group of work colleagues and I visited the Newseum in Washington, D.C. The museum features numerous exhibits, many of which are both informative and absorbing. But one exhibit stood out above all:

The Pulitzer Prize-winning photos.

On the first floor of the Newseum, one can see “the most comprehensive collection of Pulitzer Prize-winning photos ever assembled,” according to the museum’s web site. It is an impressive sight: iconic photographs, one after the other, often as chilling as they are impressive.

We all loved the Pulitzer exhibit. We all stood spellbound at the gallery for far longer than we expected. Deep down, I think, journalists truly appreciate the value of the photograph.

And then, there’s this.

As the month of May came to a close, management at the Chicago Sun-Times made the decision to lay off its entire photography staff. They would instead rely on national feeds, freelancers, and reporters who would shoot photos with their camera-phones.

Is this a one-time thing or a sign of the times? Regardless, the landscape is undoubtedly changing for the newspaper photographer.

That brings us to this week’s Telling The Story podcast.


PODCAST PREVIEW: Matt Detrich: “My stomach just dropped” when the Sun-Times fired its photographers

In the world of journalism right now, there is one big story.

And it is this.

The Chicago Sun-Times shocked the newspaper world when it laid off its entire photography staff last month. It left many photographers feeling both disrespected and misunderstood.

It also left many wondering what could become of their jobs.

This seemed like a great topic for the fourth episode of the Telling The Story podcast.

Matt Detrich is a staff photographer with the Indianapolis Star; he has worked there for 15 years. Like most photographers I know — heck, like most journalists I know — he takes an awful lot of pride in his work. Now, however, he is incorporating the iPhone into his work; he is shooting video in addition to photos; and he is proactively changing with the times, sometimes against his purist heart.

“My stomach just dropped,” Detrich said, when he heard the news about the Sun-Times.

Come back to Wednesday at 8 AM to hear the full podcast with myself and Detrich. We dig deep about the Sun-Times’ decision, the transition to a more immediate and web-based industry, and the misconceptions about a photographer’s day-to-day life.