Four of the photographers who were fired when the Chicago Sun-Times eliminated its photography department last spring are rejoining the newspaper this week.
Rich Chapman, Brian Jackson, Al Podgorski and a fourth photographer whose name was not confirmed are expected to be rehired under terms of a contract settlement reached in November between Sun-Times Media and the Chicago Newspaper Guild.
But relief over their return was tempered by news of additional layoffs in the editorial ranks of the Sun-Times, the Post-Tribune of Northwest Indiana and the SouthtownStar.
Among the layoffs targeted for end of this week are five positions covered by the Guild, including one columnist/critic and two editorial assistants at the Sun-Times, and one deputy editor and one editorial assistant at the Post-Tribune. Union leadership was notified of the planned layoffs last Friday, according to Guild executive director Craig Rosenbaum, although none of the affected employees was identified by name.
In addition, according to company sources, about a dozen other jobs among non-union personnel in editing and production positions at the Sun-Times, the Post-Tribune and the SouthtownStar are being cut. Those reductions will be achieved through a combination of layoffs and attrition.
Notably absent from the latest list are any reporters, whose employment appears to be secure for the moment even as the company struggles to achieve the elusive goal of profitability. Sun-Times officials declined to comment.
The four returning photographers were among 29 whose jobs were lost in a controversial cost-cutting move last spring by Sun-Times Media owner Wrapports LLC. At the time, the company said it planned to rely on wire services and free-lancers and to train its reporters on “iPhone photography basics.”
Company sources said the four new positions were defined as multimedia jobs, stressing strong video skills among the requirements. All of the former Guild photographers were invited to apply, and “about nine or 10” responded to the offer.
Pulitzer Prize winner John H. White, a 35-year veteran who was among those laid off, did not seek to return. He is teaching at Columbia College Chicago.