Sports Illustrated Laid Off Entire Photo Department

It was announced earlier this month that the iconic Sports Illustrated had laid off their entire photography staff, according to the National Press Photographers Association.

The remaining six staff photographers, including Robert Beck, Simon Bruty, Bill Frakes, David E. Klutho, John W. McDonough, and Al Tielemans were informed mid-afternoon last Thursday that they were being let go. Brad Smith, Sports Illustrated director of photography confirmed the news with News Photographer magazine.

“It’s true,” Smith said. “There was a decision made through the company to restructure various departments, including at Sports Illustrated. Unfortunately economic circumstances are such that it has cut the six staff photographers.”

According to NPPA, a source at Time-Life said that the lay offs will become effective in March so they will still be shooting the Super Bowl for the magazine this week.

Smith continued to explain that the future plan is “to re-evaluate what’s best for the magazine, not just financially but also content-wise. Our commitment to photography is as strong as ever, and we will continue to create the best original content possible.”

When Sports Illustrated first hit the shelves in 1954, its main objective was to become the sports magazine in the United States. When Andre Laguerre was brought on as managing editor, the focus of the print shifted to include full-color photographic coverage of the week’s sports events. That unique and in-depth coverage is what made Sports Illustrated one of the most renowned publications of the century.

While the future for photography at Sports Illustrated isn’t quite clear, a little over a year ago the Chicago Sun Times made a similar move, laying off their entire photography staff to rely more heavily on freelancers. The paper has come under heavy criticism since for not maintaining the same quality photojournalism.

Rumors started to circulate last summer that there were possible staff cuts on the way at Sports Illustrated, in addition to other Time-Life publications, due to plans to relocate downtown later this year. The new space is “considerably smaller,” according to NPPA.

Smith said that the photographers “have contributed to the success of the magazine and the Sports Illustrated franchise, and I hope that they continue to do so under slightly different circumstances.” He continued to explain, “in my grandest thoughts I hope they will continue to contribute to the magazine. I can’t imagine a world where they don’t.”

Smith said that the publication doesn’t have plans to change the layout of the magazine, but that they are just changing how they do things.

“Our commitment to photography hasn’t changed,” he said to NPPA. “We’re still going to cover games, we’re going to shoot portraits, we’re going to cover Olympics, we’ll be at the Final Four, we will be at championships, we’ll be there.

About Sean Flynn

Sean Flynn is a recent graduate from City University of New York Graduate School of Journalism. His work has appeared in The Buffalo News, Condé Nast Traveler, The New York Times 'Fort Greene Local', The Daily Meal, and
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