Tuesday, July 02, 2013

The obvious benefit of expertise

It seems to be only common sense that if you want the best job, you hire an expert, someone who really knows the terrain, is skilled and innovative – and then give them the freedom to follow their creative muse.

Unfortunately, in these corporate penny-pinching times, common sense is quite often the first casualty in the rush to the bottom line.

So today I offer a cautionary tale. Recently, the Chicago Sun-Times laid off its entire full-time photographer staff. In response, they sent their reporters out with cameras to do the best they could to shoot the stories they were covering journalistically. Here’s a quote from AP: “The newspaper fired all 28 full-time photographers last week, saying it was shifting toward more online video. It says it now will rely on freelancers and reporters for pictures and video.”

So, how is this working out? I humbly submit the following link (which is self-explanatory). I don’t think you need to have much of an eye for photography to realize that this was an incredibly ill-thought-out exercise in corporate mismanagement.

Professional photographers are a misunderstood group, I find. Nearly everyone owns a camera. Many people own good cameras, and sometimes some very expensive and sophisticated ancillary equipment. That doesn’t mean that they know how to use it, though – but often, they think they do.

If you’ve ever watched a skilled photographer at work, you’ve probably been struck by how easy it seems. “Hey, I can do that!” you foolishly think. Not so fast. For these people it is easy. That’s because they really know what they’re doing. They just snap away and you’re not seeing all the knowledge, skill and experience that’s leading to the camera being adjusted properly, the focus clean and sharp, the lighting perfect (and that can be really tricky to achieve), but most of all, their critical skill in framing the photo. That’s what sets these people apart. This is especially where photography becomes art.

Obviously, there are amateurs who have this ability – but it’s not usual. The reporters who were handed cameras by the Sun-Times brass were hired for their journalistic skills. I’m sure at no time during their job interviews were they asked a single question about their skill with a camera. And yet their banana-brained employers have decided in their wisdom to fire skilled workers to replace them with unskilled workers. The results of this move are bluntly apparent in the results of what was a critical front cover for newspapers in Chicago recently. Which one of the two newspaper covers would make you feel inclined to plop down some money, hmmm?

I could go on to draw parallels in almost any industry. When will the corporate world realize that their customers want quality, especially perceived quality when their customers are in browsing mode?

Next week, I’ll share some book covers and we’ll take this observation on quality back into the book publishing world.

5 comments:

Vicki Delany said...

It goes a lot deeper than that. People are expected to provide the knowledge free of charge that corporations then use to make themselves rich. How does Facebook and Twitter etc make money? By selling you. Nothing in it for you. That does not bode well for the future of work.

Hannah Dennison said...

I didn't realize this had happened. It makes me sad.

Rick Blechta said...

It's all a race to the bottom line, and it's not a good thing. Eventually, only a few hundred people in the United States (or anywhere in the western world, for that matter) will still have jobs – and then what?

Charlotte Hinger said...

Hannah, I'm with you--this made me incredibly sad.

Toe Hallock said...

Dear Rick: I agree with all of you. Implicitly. Brenda and I were talking about this just today. Our daughter-in-law amazes our family with her ability to create digital photos. Some of it is talent, a lot of it is creativity. Which adds up to art. Those without imagination are now running our corporations. And pocketing the salaries of those laid off. Yours truly, Toe.