last dance?

I have been and will always be an optimist.

I don’t stress about things and have tried to roll with the punches but this past week the punches have seemed to come in bunches.

First, due to economic issues and a new focus, the Chicago Tribune continued its “right-sizing” by letting 53 editorial staff members go. Among those 53, were 6 photographers, 3 photo/assignment editors and an image tech. A couple of my dear friends lost their jobs and I found out about a handful of them by reading a list on a media blog. I will truly miss John and Chuck and Bonnie and David and Min and Geoff and John and Keith and Candice and Brad and Tom.

The same week, my old paper, the Daily Southtown, part of the struggling Sun-Times News Group, continued slashing costs by eliminating 140 positions. Amongst those kicked to the curb was Bob Bong, the Southtown’s business editor.

Back in 1986, shortly after graduating from Ripon College with a dazzling double major in Business and Art, I was hired at the Daily Calumet by then managing editor Bob Bong. Looking back, I can’t fathom why Bob would have hired me. I had a portfolio consisting of ill composed sports photos shot from the stands and a handful of artsy fartsy reflections, silhouettes and shadow play images. I pretty much sucked.

During my first year in the business, Bob was patient as I learned by my mistakes and when in October 1987 the Southtown Economist bought the Daily Cal, Bob and I joined a much bigger staff.

Those early days at the Daily Cal and at the Southtown were crucial to my slow but steady development that eventually led to a dream job at the Trib.

Despite being confident that the Chicago Tribune will survive in one form or another thus allowing me to continue to be able to live life as a photojournalist in one of the world’s great cities, I still am struggling coming to grips with the newspaper business’ downward spiral and the thousands of journalists that have been shown the door.

The other day I saw the movie “State of Play”. I could tell that the movie was written a couple years back because the fictitious Washington Globe had just been bought by a large media corporation and the top editor was torn between journalism for journalism sake and journalism for profit’s sake.

Aaaah, the good ol’ days.

Despite being entertaining, the movie made me incredibly sad and a bit angry.

The problem is that I am not exactly sure who to be angry at. Should I be mad at the newspapers for trying to be profitable? Should I be angry at those younger than me who seemingly have little interest in what newspapers have to offer? Should I be angry with myself for being short-sighted for not realizing that change is inevitable and this will all shake out over the next several years leading to the surviving news organizations being primed for success? (OK, there I go being an optimist again)

Don’t know. Don’t know. Don’t know.

All I know is that back in 1986, I never thought my dream would ever end.


6 Responses to “last dance?”

  1. Everyday I feel so lucky to be able to make photos. Keep living the dream man, and hope we don’t wake up.

  2. These are crazy times, for sure. Wonderful time for me to have switched majors 6 months ago :-/…

    I think what frightens me the most is that when the dust settles we are left with even fewer people in control of the media world. I fear we will loose diversity.

    But I guess I am an optimist too and I look forward to seeing where it all leads to. Seems as though the newspaper industry is on the cusp of revolution :).

  3. scott, i had always know you only from intermittent passings at the tower and from your glorious photos. i didn’t know how eloquent you are, what a great writer as well as photographer. i’m glad you are still at the trib. i’ve been going through different phases (nearly every day), most of which are attempts at looking forward rather than back. this blog entry is one of the few things that have made me feel like there are things to be missed back at 435. i’m glad you turned me on to your blog. gracias, elaine

  4. thanks, man. wonderful pix(and words)here.
    stay optimistic.

  5. Scott, very impressive blog post. Coming from newspapers I share many of your feelings on the state of journalism today. Keep up your good work and continue to be an optimist. Brighter days are on the horizon.

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